What to make of the punch by the Columbia University Professor – Dr. Boyce

12 Nov

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

When I heard that black Columbia University professor Lionel McIntyre punched out a white university employee, I was obviously taken aback. I was even more intrigued by the fact that the two were having a heated conversation about white privilege when the alleged punch took place. Given that the fight was in a bar, I immediately thought about the Jamie Foxx excuse: "blame it on the alcohol." My goddaughter is an athlete at Columbia, but I had no idea that Columbia University professors could be so athletic in their free time. Although professor McIntyre’s actions are obviously inexcusable, the truth is that our actions "under the influence" tell a deeper story about our psyches, so there is more to this incident than meets the eye.

1) Call me crazy, but I understand how Lionel McIntyre felt. I would never punch out anyone from the frustration I’ve felt when dealing with white privilege, but then again, that is probably why I chose not to drink alcohol, since I am genuinely concerned about how I might react to the stinging pain of consistent racism. What is also true is that although some black scholars are afraid to admit it, many of us have felt incredibly angry and irritated by the arrogant nature of white privilege within academia. It’s not that black scholars dislike their white colleagues, it’s that many of us are tired of being thought of as second-class citizens. If any black Ph.D. student or professor says they haven’t thought about jumping over someone’s desk and "whooping ass" at least once, they’re telling a lie. Some of us hold in the frustration until we die of heart disease. Some of us submit ourselves to the system and become groveling Sambos, while many black scholars simply leave academia altogether. Either way, there is as much frustration for black scholars in America as there is within nearly every other profession dominated by whites. So as the comedian Chris Rock once said in a skit about O.J. Simpson, "I’m not saying he should have done it, but I understand."

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