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.”