If anything, the incidents prove how bad a platform a Twitter is for academics, who are not known for explaining ideas with brevity, to use a platform that literally limits updates to 140 characters.
What makes the Grundy incident exceptional, however, especially for sociologists, is that none of what she said is regarded as controversial within the discipline, especially sociologists of race. The concepts of white privilege, systemic racism, and continued white dominance of American social, political and economic institutions is not new or shocking research. This makes BU's decision to distance itself from Grundy's comments particularly disappointing and questionable given that colleges and universities are supposed to be staunch defenders of academic freedom, of which Grundy is clearly exercising.
Several scholars and commentators in the sociology and African American community have spoken out on the issue.
Writing in The Root, Peniel E. Joseph discusses the significant barriers black women, including Michelle Obama, continue to face in the public sphere:
- "The piercing anger behind Grundy’s tweets is rooted in recent events in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., a mixture of protests, demonstrations and violence that have, as she reminds us, made race an unavoidable topic. On social media, Grundy removed the academic hat for the identity that black women, including Michelle Obama, are always accused of donning—that of an angry black woman."
- "BU have thereby tightened the hermetic seal that keeps important knowledge about race and gender, and how they intersect to circumscribe the lives of so many, on the margins and in the shadows of acceptability. Grundy, in her eagerness to call out racism, has been willfully misunderstood and has herself been accused of racism. She, growing up in a country founded on the labor of black slaves, in which race is now a reliable marker of wealth, health, education, and incarceration, is being criticized for comments which call out structural oppression."
Some more commentary from The Grio:
- "Black men and boys are constantly singled out as a problematic demographic that requires harsh and unrelenting surveillance and policing. Any action by any black man in America is lumped into a web of pathology. Anything “bad” a black person does becomes a check mark against the entire race. White people, on the other hand, have not had that issue in America. | When the media gets hold of video of white college students gleefully chanting racist songs or when white young men are found guilty of raping schoolmates, it’s portrayed as a “few bad apples” type of narrative as opposed to something being wrong with the white male population. Grundy’s statement essentially shifts that line of thinking to put those types of behaviors in context."
All are excellent analyses of how speech that challenges how people think, especially when the thinker is a person of color, continues to be challenged by the privileged in society.
- Arthur Wang, SUA Blog Manager