Planet Princeton

Princeton professor who criticized Donald Trump cancels talks after receiving death threats

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor speaks at Hampshire College. Photo: Hampshire College Communications.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an activist, associate professor of African American studies at Princeton University and author of “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation,”canceled two public lectures this week after receiving threatening emails.

Taylor was scheduled to speak in Seattle and at the University of California, San Diego this week.

“I am canceling my appearances for fear of my safety and my family’s safety. Since last Friday, I have received more than fifty hate-filled and threatening emails. Some of these emails have contained specific threats of violence, including murder,” she wrote. Her statement was posted on the Haymarket Books Facebook page.

Taylor spoke at Hampshire College’s 47th annual commencement last Saturday. She challenged students to use their skills to become part of revolutions taking place across the globe and encouraged them to embrace history, struggle, solidarity, and hope as building blocks for their lives. “Given this current reality that becomes more surreal with each passing day, it’s easy to be discouraged, but you shouldn’t be. Now is the time for defiance,” she said in her speech. She warned graduates of the world they were entering into, spoke of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions, and called President Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac” who “has fulfilled the campaign promises of a campaign organized and built upon racism, corporatism, and militarism.”

“My speech at Hampshire was applauded but Fox News did not like it. Last week, the network ran a story on my speech, describing it as an ‘anti-POTUS tirade.’ Fox ran an online story about my speech and created a separate video of excerpts of my speech, which included my warning to graduates about the world they were graduating into. I argued that Donald Trump, the most powerful politician in the world, is ‘a racist and sexist megalomaniac,’ who poses a threat to their future,” she wrote. “Shortly after the Fox story and video were published, my work email was inundated with vile and violent statements.”

Taylor said she has repeatedly been called “nigger,” “bitch,” “cunt,” “dyke,” “she-male,” and “coon.”

“I have been threatened with lynching and having the bullet from a .44 Magnum put in my head. I am not a newsworthy person. Fox did not run this story because it was ‘news,’ but to incite and unleash the mob-like mentality of its fringe audience, anticipating that they would respond with a deluge of hate-filled emails — or worse. The threat of violence, whether it is implied or acted on, is intended to intimidate and to silence,” she wrote. “In some sense, then, they have been successful. In the last few weeks, white racists have committed heinous acts of violence.”

On May 20, white “alt-Right” sympathizer, Sean Urbanski, murdered an African-American Bowie State University student, Richard Collins III, on the campus of the University of Maryland. Urbanski was a member of a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich: Nation.” Last weekend, a white supremacist in Portland, Oregon, murdered two men and attempted to murder another when the men stepped in to stop an Islamophobic and racist attack on two young women riding public transit.

“President Donald Trump finally decided to release a half-hearted and subdued tweet to oppose the murders in Portland, but with not nearly the same vigor he has used to incite his base against immigrants, while also whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria,” she wrote. “The lethargy of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security in responding to the actual threat of white supremacist, terrorist violence encourages the development of its networks and organizations across the country.”

She said canceling her events is a concession to intimidation she believes was provoked by Fox News, but also said she won’t remain silent even though she is canceling the public talks.

“Their side uses the threat of violence and intimidation because they cannot compete in the field of politics, ideas, and organizing,” Taylor wrote. “The true strength of our side has not yet been expressed in its size and breadth, and so they believe they are winning. We have to change this dynamic and begin to build a massive movement against racism, sexism, and bigotry in this country. I remain undaunted in my commitment to that project.”

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Lev Borisov

    I think you vastly overestimate the flakiness of an average liberal.

  • Blake Cash

    I am merely following the definitions provided by the students of our institutions of higher learning. Perhaps you could speak with a few of them.

    Many would take your last paragraph as a threat, by your definition outside free speech.

  • Blake Cash

    Calling half of the population racist is not compassion and respect

  • Lev Borisov

    Do you imply that credible death threats are a form of free speech?

    The people who disagree with Ms. Taylor have every legal right to call her anything they want (although this may or not be against their employers’ rules). But threats of violence are a different matter.

    It is quite likely that out of 50 emails she claims to have received, half do not involve any violent threats and are just noise, and half of the rest are clearly not credible. But I would not be surprised if there are a few that fall into the uncomfortable area of “who knows”. There are enough nut jobs on both sides of the political spectrum to make it a real concern.

    I am absolutely sure that if a Trump supporter’s name was publicized on some of the more militant left wing websites, the result would be similar. You should probably keep this in mind and have some sympathy for Ms. Taylor.

  • JR

    One wonders if the “death threats” are similar to the “police brutality suffered by Imani Perry.

  • Martha Friend

    A “single minded person” whose focus is about demanding ALL in this country be treated with compassion and respect??!! I’m proud to be lumped into that category.

  • Robert Dana

    WWMLKD?

  • peterS

    You just exclude yourself of being rational. A typical example of a single minded person who live in a bubble, not accepting (actually basing) other opinions.

  • disqus_U6Pcppnixi

    Silly Princeton Professor where does she think she is America? This is the new USA. Can’t spell Trump without rump

  • Joe

    Brava to Professor Taylor, she articulates the problems we face very well. Fox News is a loathsome and despicable platform for right wing filth. Making death threats is not free speech, it’s a criminal activity. Calling in a bomb threat to a public school is not free speech. Threatening to kill a president, whether Obama or Trump, is not an example of free speech.

  • BlueBlazer

    Let’s review just some of the incidents of the last two weeks:

    AG Sessions continues to push rollbacks on civil rights protections.

    A noose left at the Segregation Gallery at the National Museum of African American History.

    A noose left hanging from a tree at the Hirshorn Museum.

    Racial slur scrawled on LeBron James’s home.

    Two men murdered and a third injured by a white supremacist who had been assaulting Muslim girls in Washington.

    Richard Collins, a black army officer, murdered by another white supremacist in Maryland.

    You really want to dance around the “free speech” excuse and not call out hate speech for what it is?

    This administration is racist. Those who voted for it might not want to consider themselves racists, but please ask yourself what is the difference between supporting a candidate because he is racist, or supporting a candidate in spite of his racism? The result is you supported racism and gave it power.

  • She? I thought that was a man in that photo.

  • Blake Cash

    Odd thing about that free speech thing. It applies to everyone.

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