Backlash: what happens when we talk honestly about race in America

By Kaylee Pugliese, News Editor

A room full of mostly RWU students and faculty sat in silence in the Mary Tefft White Cultural Center in the library as the “N” word was repeated at them 22 times in a row. 
 
Philosopher and New York Times columnist George Yancy spoke about his book “Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly about Racism in America.” 
 
Yancy published a piece in The New York Times on Dec. 24, 2015 titled “Dear White America,” in which he spoke about the pervasiveness of white racism. After it was published, the piece received tremendous backlash with over 2,000 responses from white readers who were incredibly racially aggressive using profane language and threatening him with physical harm. These messages came in the form of emails, snail mail, postcards and letters — including one that read the N-word across the entire page. Yancy read the word then repeated it for 26 seconds straight. 
 
Yancy said people would go to the post office and put a stamp on an envelope just to call him the N-word. 
 
One of the letters read, “Dear n****r professor, you are f*****g racist. You are neither African or American. You are 100 percent n****r…. You are a f*****g animal just like all black people…” 
 
Other messages said he deserves several injuries, has a big mouth that needs to be slammed shut permanently and that he should commit suicide. 
 
“Being black in America is like being on death row,” said Yancy. 
 
Yancy went on throughout the program to talk about a variety of stories where African-Americans were killed, injured, threatened and harassed. He ends his discussion with the following question: What if to be white in American is to be racist? 
 
“If this is the case, what is to be done? How do people address this without masks?” Yancy asked. 
 
Racism is still very present in the United States. Even though the country has come a long way over the years, people of color continue to face horrific threats, discrimination and violence. Though movements like “Black Lives Matter” and Colin Kaepernick’s protests receive backlash, the fight for equality and raising awareness still runs strong.