Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Black Professor Punches Woman in Heated Argument Over White Privilege or When Well Meaning White People Run Face First Into the Fist of Black Rage

I must admit, as frustrated as I may have been in my many discussions of white privilege, they have never come to fisticuffs. Unfortunately, on Monday of this week Professor McIntyre's self-control was far less stalwart. Random thought: will tenure protect him on this one? Or is he out on a moral's clause?

People of color have long learned the merits of sucking it in. Apparently, this policy of silent annoyance does occasionally result in moments of explosive rage.

Respectable negroes learn at an early age to be diplomatically neutral, if not silent, even when we are right. We must smile when we are upset. And of course, we must demure to White folks in matters of race because as in all things they are the ultimate experts. This is the irony of race relations in America. Historically, black folk (and others) have been a "problem" to be managed. Not "managed" by ourselves per se--our agency is not in doubt--but managed, made the object of bureaucratic and legal apparatuses, and the focal point of studies, research, and policy designed to solve the race problem in America. The Racial State manages bodies, personhood, and relationships. Implicit in this relationship is that White folks do the managing, and people of color are the pieces of the game that are to be coordinated.

Counter to this narrative is the fact that racism is a problem of the White soul. It is not Black and brown folk, but rather White people, who need to reflect on their own culpability and responsibility for the grotesque history (and present) of this society spanning, world organizing concept and regime.

What follows is the eureka moment upon which conversations about race more generally, and whiteness, in particular become so heated: necessity dictates that black folks and the Other are experts on White people, and by reversing the gaze (where Whiteness and White people are now made the objects of inquiry) feelings, emotions, and expectations can become dangerously impassioned.

The moment of reversal can result in two binary outcomes. For racial reactionaries and conservatives there is a fierce denial of White privilege, one that is prefaced on an unwillingness to accept the profound impact of race and racism on American social and political life. It is tragically funny then, that the racial resentment felt by White conservatives is exactly a response to the perception that their superior position is under threat:

For White liberals, especially self-described "progressives," White privilege is met with some acknowledgment where the responses follow a predictable script: "Sure racism is real, but I am not a racist, right?" Alternatively, these same progressives may assert that, "I am certainly fighting white privilege because I am a progressive, feminist, environmentalist, vegan. My bonafides are proven, thus I share no complicity in supporting or perpetuating social inequality."

My favorite of this genus is the racist White liberal. This purveyor of the soft bigotry of low-expectations expects little from people of color. And in their patronizing, he/she proceeds from a position of inherent superiority. In discussions of white privilege the racist White liberal is oftentimes the very person who introduces the concept. Ultimately, this is just another domain within which to grandstand, all the while maintaining one's expertise on people of color, the race problem, and white privilege. It is a coup of sorts because the expertise of racist white liberals on these matters is enabled by white privilege, all the while they rally against the very thing which sustains their "superiority." The result: people of color are rendered mute as experts on the condition of their own being.

Theorizing in a vacuum, what do you think precipitated the fight in the following story? Who is more racist and frustrating? Liberals or Conservatives? Do you have a favorite white privilege/male privilege/some other privilege story? One that ends in some exciting fireworks of tears, anger, rage, or just utter exacerbation? I must ask: Who is more likely to cry as a defense mechanism and distraction? I know the answer. I just want to here others confirm it. I will beg the question: Is White privilege even worth discussing? Or is it just a dead end where one ends up wasting energy by speaking to the honest (who already "get" it) as well as the disingenuous (who pretend to "get" it) alike?

From the NY Post, the story follows:

Prof busted in Columbia gal 'punch'

Last Updated: 1:17 PM, November 10, 2009

Posted: 2:57 AM, November 10, 2009

A prominent Columbia architecture professor punched a female university employee in the face at a Harlem bar during a heated argument about race relations, cops said yesterday.

Police busted Lionel McIntyre, 59, for assault yesterday after his bruised victim, Camille Davis, filed charges.

McIntyre and Davis, who works as a production manager in the school's theater department, are both regulars at Toast, a popular university bar on Broadway and 125th Street, sources said.

The professor, who is black, had been engaged in a fiery discussion about "white privilege" with Davis, who is white, and another male regular, who is also white, Friday night at 10:30 when fists started flying, patrons said.

McIntyre, who is known as "Mac" at the bar, shoved Davis, and when the other patron and a bar employee tried to break it up, the prof slugged Davis in the face, witnesses said.

"The punch was so loud, the kitchen workers in the back heard it over all the noise," bar back Richie Velez, 28, told The Post. "I was on my way over when he punched Camille and she fell on top of me."

The other patron involved in the dispute said McIntyre then took a swing at him after he yelled, "You don't hit a woman!"

"He knocked the glasses right off my face," said the man, who would only give his first name as "Shannon." "The punch came out of nowhere. Mac was talking to us about white privilege and what I was doing about it -- apparently I wasn't doing enough."

McIntyre had squabbled with Davis several weeks earlier over issues involving race, witnesses said. As soon as the professor threw the punch Friday, server Rob Dalton and another employee tossed him out.

"It was a real sucker punch," Dalton said. "Camille's a great lady, always nice to everybody, and doesn't deserve anything like this."

Davis was spotted wearing sunglasses yesterday to conceal the black eye. Reached at her Columbia office, she declined to comment on the alleged attack.

McIntyre was released without bail at his arraignment last night.

"It was a very unfortunate event," he said afterwards. "I didn't mean for it to explode the way it did."

Additional reporting by Sarah Makuta


Hank Nasty said...

This makes me sad.

gordon gartrelle said...

What kind of fool punches ideological adversaries in the face?

Stanley Crouch, Norman Mailer?

Great company there, Mac.

And a woman too!?

But I wouldn't take any eyewitness accounts as gospel, especially when it has to do with discussions of white privilege, a black man and a white woman.

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Just reading through some of your articles, and enjoying them.

i wanted to mention a few things that I'm sure are common sense things that seem to get pushed to the side.

If the races were reversed, front page news.

Actions of an individual make more of an impact than color. Whites will always have a negative outlook on races, all races, as long as the majority of a minority have negative actions on society.

Racism will always exist as long as there are ignorant close minded people.

Racism exists on both sides of the coin, except being a black racist holds little weight compared to a white person labeled a racist.

The white majority cannot criticize a minority without it being discounted down to racial bias.

Thank you, keep it up!

chaunceydevega said...


Nice to have a new visitor, we appreciate the complements. I think the narrative regarding the story above is an interesting one, especially regarding "black racism."

I do agree that if the shoe were on the other foot, i.e. white prof hits black coworker it would be a bigger story. We should ask why though? Is it the media's approach to these stories? Interestingly, one would think that a black man attacking a white woman would be a huge story as it plays into so many white racist fantasies. Surprisingly, the msm has not been on this one.

I do have to disagree on one point R, can you clarify the "majority of a minority" being wrong doers? I think this is one of the points of disagreement on race in America. If I read you correctly, and I apologize if I didn't, the point is exactly the opposite as it is a minority of a minority that commits crimes, and once you control for income, crime rates normalize (actually blacks commit fewer crimes compared to whites once you account for income if I remember the stats correctly).

This is the familiar story we have to live with: a person of color does something dumb and it becomes a narrative about Black and Brown people generally. A White person does something and rarely is it a referendum on all white people.

chauncey devega

Unknown said...

This is exactly what races need, a simple discussion and getting some things cleared up, Thank You for your Reply!

Let me start with the first point, I really believe that if the races were reversed, it would be a bigger story, your right about that. Why this isnt a bigger story is actually simple, the white elitist fear either backlash from blacks OR what they really believe. i would say whites as a whole are more comfortable pushing stories about white on black than black on white. Its the news, there shouldnt be bias, so much for that.

I know alot of people will disagree with me on this, as you have. What I meant was a minority, approximately 12% of the population, (

Yet, the majority of the population of jails are Mostly black ( Regardless of false imprisonment, circumstances in social living conditions, and being targeted by racist white cops, there is a huge problem. Believe me when i say that there is alot of shit that I cant understand, problems and choices that I havent or will have to make. Thats not even a question, and i am far from privileged and struggle monthly to make things meet as a single father. Not trying to justify my stand point, just saying that when whites see these stats, (whether flawed or not), and see the videos of robberies and such, it cant do anything but impact how a race views another race.

I hope that makes sense, sometimes it is fairly difficult to find the right words for description and having a point while still making a straight line to it.

Actors Calendar said...

I am a long time listener, first time caller.

I agree with everything you write in this post but I had trouble with: "Racism is a problem of the White soul..." Is thinking about the way my life has been enriched by the suffering of others really a matter of my "soul"?

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

@Sullivan. I was thinking about the specific way that whiteness is inseparable from racism. Now whiteness does not necessarily equal white people. It was also a wink at the classic book A Rage for Order and its chapter entitled, "the White soul" where the author noted historian (Joel Williamson) explores racial violence and lynching in the South following the Civil War. Check the book out you may find it compelling reading.

thanks for chiming in...and hopefully we can chat some more.

chauncey devega

Zraver said...

I am going to jump in on the issue of black crime or more accurately young poor inner city male crime. This group young poor inner city males are not only trouble but in trouble. Not trying to sound like a pansy liberal but the establishment has set up a system where inner city residents are all but denied a chance at the American dream.

Black neighborhoods have lower property values and thus a lower tax base to support schools. On top of this money is redirected away from the majority of students to fund AP classes that are white dominated. Schools are consolidated to save money despite proof that black kids learn better in smaller schools.

Cities give tax breaks to bring in business but then locate them away from public transportation so that blacks with far less secure transportation are less likely to compete for jobs.

Interstate construction and neighborhood redevelopment isolated black communities and compressed them into the most segregated communities in American history so his cultural experiences are limited like a horse with blinders. A survey of the nations elite colleges shows that a minority dominated neighborhood and school is a prime indicator of lower scores and that mixed schools raise scores.

Public defender and crime deterrence programs are underfunded so that the blacks who are more likely to use the first and thus miss the second are chronically under served. Same goes for job training programs. Momma can get milk for the baby, but dad can't get a pair of work boots or a bus ticket. If a job he can actually get too would matter.

Poverty relief programs are set up so that if dad wants to be part of his child's life he often can't. See above for the real chance of a lack of useful education, inability to use what he has to get a family wage job and difficulty getting to the job site.
All working for McDonald's or some other inner city service industry is going to do is put mom over the wage cap and cut her and the babies benefits. He becomes a hindrance not a boon to his family.

Poorly educated, no real job prospects, stuck in the poorest part of town and kicked out of his family via economic necessity he is as disenfranchised as any prisoner. Yet he is still a young man with elevated levels of hormones, a need to belong, a need to compete, to contribute, to do something. What exactly are his options if he can't rap or play ball at the superhuman level? Continue to work at McDonald as his hair goes silver?

White privilege extends to so many levels its not even funny. As a former drug addict who is now an honors student I know wherefore I speak. The night I was arrested the sergeant of the guard said," most of you white kids will bond out, most of you blacks won't and will be sitting here until trial."

Even if we got the exact same sentence- drug court, how long did they spend in jail? I never even went to sleep behind bars. They couldn't bond out for the reasons I outlined above.

Then I get to college, and win a full ride scholarship out of the remedial program. One of the prime factor sin winning it, was my ability to write. Being white, I speak white, its my natural language, its also the language of academia.Was my prose better, or just familiar?

Working as a tutor has been eye opening. For one it reveals the folly of assuming blacks are stupid. The biggest issues they face where I work are the language barrier and generally more narrow cultural horizons. The higher order thinking is there as often as in whites.

More importantly the statistics are equally clear- 1% of Honors is minority, 15% of the student body (matches state demographics), and 50% or the remedial program. This is important because it highlights two facts. One that the pre-collegiate education is failing more black students than whites, and that despite all the barriers they face young black men are heading to school looking for a way out. If they are trying to do the best they can, but the system holds them back- who built the system?

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...


Powerful words. We appreciate your honesty. If you ever want to write a guest commentary then simply send us an email!