Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black Bloggers on the Columbia Professor Assault Case

November 11th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance


The Toast Bar, where Lionel McIntyre’s debate with Camille Davis degenerated into violence.


The general consensus among Black bloggers is that, while arguments about race can get heated and frustrated, there is no excuse for Lionel McIntyre’s violent attack on Camille Davis. Many Black bloggers have asserted that while they can understand McIntyre’s intense feelings on the subject of white privilege, they are appalled by his choice to punch someone who disagreed with him, especially a woman.

Janet Shan for The Hinterland Gazette:

What I find appalling is that this man knows the struggles that blacks went through in this country, but yet, he got so angry that he hit a woman. According to the World Leaders Forum, he worked in civil rights and labor organization in the deep South from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. He served as the director of planning for the Harlem Urban Development Corporation from 1989 to 1994 and served as advisor to the president of Columbia University on community development and the Empowerment Zone.  I have yet to see a statement issued by the university and I am wondering why he hasn’t been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this case in a court of law.

Dr. Boyce Watkins for Black Spin:

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.”

Chauncey DeVega for We Are Respectable Negroes:

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.

Rob Taylor for Red Alerts:

Building bridges and breaking down the barriers that hold the Black man back. That’s what every Uncle Tom liberal who crawls off to places like Columbia to spend the better part of his life tap dancing for academia’s armchair Marxists and promoting policies that have destroyed the Black community will tell you he’s actually doing. In reality, “brothers” like Lionel McIntyre (or Beltway Sniper defending Jesse Taylor from Pandagon) know that they are part of the reason the Black community is in the shape it’s in and just don’t care.

SLAUS for O Hell Naw:

I completely understand WHY you would want to punch […]someone during a conversation regarding white privilege. Doesn’t give anyone the right to  actually DO it, but i definitely understand the feeling.  Which is why I don’t ever get into discussions on the topic while face-to-face  since I know it is a severely sensitive hot button with me and chances are I am going to completely make matters worse by hauling off and stabbing fools all in their face.

So… Professor, you can’t go around doing that ridiculous s**t. You can’t just go punching folks in the face over a damn discussion.

The Buzz at The Root:

Uh, professor? Race relations and white privilege are definitely topics that can get The Buzz worked into a lather but…you can’t punch women in the face.

Lionel McIntyre’s attack on Camille Davis  hurts all of the communities of which he is a part. There is no doubt that many women in the Columbia community will feel disrespected and unsafe as a result of his actions. Many Black students will feel embarrassed and betrayed, and many Black male students may well find themselves under increased scrutiny, all based on the behavior of someone whose actions have nothing to do with them…And then there are Lionel McIntyre’s Black faculty colleagues, at Columbia University and beyond.

On many campuses in the U.S. and around the world, Black scholars struggle to be taken seriously and to be seen as something more than the sum of 4 centuries of old and pernicious stereotypes and fears. A brief foray into the comments section of any newspaper that has reported on this case reveals that many non-Black readers have experienced McIntyre’s assault on Camille Davis as an affirmation of their worst and most bigoted ideas about Black professors (that we are nothing more than savages with fancy credentials), about African American studies, and about the role of all Black people in higher education. As a Black professor and as a woman, I am shocked and angered and disturbed by Lionel McIntyre’s actions. I am also angered and disturbed (but not at all shocked or surprised) by the viciously racist comments of so many of those who have weighed in on the coverage of this horrible event.

Posted by Ajuan Mance


Posted in Academia, African Americans, Black men, Black Professors, Current Events, Higher Education, race

4 Responses

  1. Nietzschean

    I’m a white person. The attack by McIntyre, and all of these comments from, presumably, the more highly educated and civil blacks demonstrates perfectly why white people are “cowardly” when it comes to conversing about race. Every time I’ve been stupid enough to try it honestly, I was internally in physical defense mode, preparing for the McIntyre-like explosion of rage. Blacks don’t actually want a “conversation” on race. They want total abject deference before the truth of their feelings. The problem, of course, is that life doesn’t work that way, not even at a citidal of white guilt, Columbia University.

  2. Nietzschean

    I also submit that the sympathy for this woman–who after all was sucker punched in the face by a “man”–on the part of the black professors is less than an inch thin and their real sympathy goes to themselves: “How does this affect me/blacks/black professors vis-a-vis X,Y & Z?”

  3. Leverne E. Jones, Elementary School Teacher, Baltimore

    I know Lionel, he usually doen’t behave like this. I’m not making excuses for him, I just wished he’d gone to the gym and let out some of that anger and frustration out on a punching bag instead on Ms. Davis’ face. Love you, Mac

  4. Virginia

    Looking back at my life I can’t really see where I recieved so-called “priveleges.” I grew up in a trailer park, joined the running start program (also available to blacks) and mom paid extra for summer classes so that I got my AA at the same time as my HS diploma, but I didn’t figure out what I wanted to do with myself until after I worked as a CNA a while. I went to nursing school AFTER buying a fixer home at the age of 24 in ’04, am in debt for all the costs of school because I made too much to get grants because I did live-in (24 hr) shifts sometimes weeks at a time the year before! The credit is MINE as are the sacrifices. I have no friends and no family started at age 31 because I worked so hard in life for what I got. Don’t let your “leaders” trade you excuses for real success black folks! I work with 2 Kenyan home care nurses who overcame extreme social and language barriers to succeed here, and one of them grew up in a hut!