Professor Sundiata Cha-Jua, a prominent history and African-American studies professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, is under fire after using racist slurs to describe Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker. While the racist attack has drawn criticism on conservative sites, there has been no opposing statement or protest at the university. The media has also been largely quiet. The contrast to past controversies involving conservative faculty members again raises the concern over a double standard applied by colleges and universities as well as the media. Thus far, the response to the use of racist slurs or tropes against Republicans has been the familiar sound of crickets.
Cha-Jua wrote in The News-Gazette Walker is “incompetent, subliterate and coonish.”
Recently, Walker was subjected to a racist attack on MSNBC by regular guest (and writer for Above the Law and the Nation) Elie Mystal. MSNBC never apologized to Walker or affirmed its opposition to such racist commentary.
The column was an attack on Black Republicans who Cha-Jua refers to as “MAGA Black White supremacists.”
The column seems to follow a pattern among Democratic politicians in attacking Black and Hispanic voters who are shifting over to the GOP. President Biden was ridiculed for declaring “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
Likewise, minority members have been opposed by minority caucuses or campaign funds controlled by Democrats. For example, Republican Jennifer-Ruth Green has attracted national attention in a surprisingly competitive race against an incumbent Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan. The race has Democrats so worried that the Congressional Black Caucus took the controversial step of backing her white opponent despite a stated purpose of being “a non-partisan body made up of African American members of Congress” committed to achieving “access to Black Americans and other marginalized communities.”GOP Rep. Mayra Flores was barred from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.The media has also shown the same open hostility or bias. Notably, the Huffington Post recently wrote a column celebrating the surge of Muslim Americans in the midterms as a candidates but omitted the Muslim American running to be the next senator from Pennsylvania (arguably the highest of these races): Dr. Mehmet Oz. The column titled “American Muslims In The Midterms Aren’t Long-Shot Candidates Anymore,” simply does not include the Republican among the notable Muslims seeking public office.
In his highly offensive column, Chu-Jua compares a Black Republican candidate Terence Stuber to a slave serving white masters: “And like the incompetent, subliterate and coonish Herschel Walker, Stuber reiterates ‘massa’ Trump’s talking points.” Stuber is running for Champaign County Clerk.
The lack of any protest or statement at the university is another example of how such controversies are handled when they involve faculty on the left as opposed to right. There are relatively few conservative or Republican faculty at most universities today, but the response to any such controversial statements is often immediate and overwhelming.
I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments “detonating white people,” abolish white people, denouncing police, calling for Republicans to suffer, strangling police officers, celebrating the death of conservatives, calling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements. I also defended the free speech rights of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. (Loomis was later made Director of Graduate Studies of History at Rhode Island).
Even when faculty engage in hateful acts on campus, however, there is a notable difference in how universities respond depending on the viewpoint. At the University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.
When these controversies arose, faculty rallied behind the free speech rights of the professors. That support was far more muted or absent when conservative faculty have found themselves at the center of controversies. The recent suspension of Ilya Shapiro is a good example. Other faculty have had to go to court to defend their free speech rights. One professor was suspended for being seen at a controversial protest.
I would defend Cha-Jua’s right to speak despite his offensive rhetoric in any effort to fire him. Yet, such language should be condemned. A professor used openly racist slurs to attack African Americans running for office and the silence from the university and the faculty at Illinois is perfectly deafening. The contrast in these cases is glaring and chilling. The professors and pundits who have written hair-triggered columns or tweets are notably silent when the racist attack is directed against Black Republicans or conservatives.
The response explains the sense of fear and intimidation for some faculty in speaking out on campuses. There is a general view that a conservative or dissenting faculty member will be given little quarter or protection in any controversy. Given the relatively small number of openly conservative or Republican professors left on many faculties, the chilling effect is perfectly glacial.