“Affirming Our Values”: African American Scholars, White Virtual Mobs, and the Complicity of White University Administrators

By Stephen C. Finley, Biko M. Gray, and Lori Latrice Martin


Numerous high-profile cases have brought to light the tenuous position of African American professors, many of whom study race or include race as a significant category in their scholarly work. The cases in question almost inevitably involve critiques of whiteness or white supremacy. The responses to these scholars have been aggressive and violent. Mass-media and social media discussions focus on threats to academic freedom or call into question the merits of the controversy, ignoring very important contexts within which these matters must be understood. We address the oversight through an engagement of the subject using an interpretation of the structural relationship of predominately white institutions (PWIs) and their administrators to whiteness using two methods: Afro-pessimistic description and a philosophical interpretation. We argue that white administrators at PWIs support and encourage white mob behavior through their responses to African American scholars and that they constitute an essential structure of whiteness. The article suggests corrective and constructive measures to address these problems.

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