Clarion Call No. 144
On Thursday, Feb. 28, North Carolina State University Prof. Phillip Muñoz’s political science class on “Law and Justice” was interrupted by a group of black students. The group passed out slips of paper to students as they entered the classroom, then lined up along the side wall of the classroom. The group never spoke, not even to respond to the professor’s repeated invitations to state their case. They were there to offer support, or better stated, intimidation, on behalf of a black student upset about the class.
On the slips they handed out, they stated, “We are concerned about the learning environment of this classroom. The atmosphere has been said to be racially tense and divergent to the learning of Political Science 205 material.” They also wrote “We hope that as the professor of this course, you will mediate your class to create a positive environment in which all of your students can learn” and that “In the event of racially slurred statements, the professor should address the fact that class time is not the time to state offensive statements to diverge one’s attentions from learning.”
According to a student in the class who asked not to be identified, the “racially slurred” and “offensive” statements came during a class discussion on Abraham Lincoln. A black student objected to the positive image of Lincoln, saying he was not an honorable man, and that he only wanted to limit slavery, not end it. From there he decried all of Founding Fathers of the United States of America as racist and corrupt, being white slave owners. A girl sitting next to him told him her ancestry was Irish, so not only were they not slave owners, but that they faced persecution in their own right. Her comments further infuriated him, and he continued to rail against the country, racism, and the founders. The girl told him if he were so upset about it that he should “go back to Africa,” to which he replied no, he was here now, and he would be “in your face.” Their exchange grew more heated, and Muñoz stopped it, saying the class needed civilized discussion.
The student behind the demonstration had previously argued with another student in the class that the “Holocaust” of blacks in America was worse than the Jewish Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis and the displacement of American Indians during the American expansion, including the “Trail of Tears.” He furthermore had walked out on a class lecture on the Declaration of Independence, when Muñoz had argued that the Declaration of Independence included all people, not just white men — exclaiming “This is bull____!” as he left.
On Thursday’s class, Muñoz told the demonstrators that “I applaud you for coming in and standing up for your convictions” and that “If we can’t talk about them in a college environment, where can we talk about them?” The students were not interested in talking. “If you’re here, you might as well speak,” Muñoz pleaded with them. Only the student who had walked out on the class would speak.
He told Muñoz that the issue was “more than a walking out on class issue, more than an adult issue,” but that “we have repeatedly asked you to address racism.” He said “there is a cancer on this campus” and that it can’t be contained but must be dealt with. He spoke of “reclaiming our history” and said he was tired of hearing about the Founding Fathers and Lincoln, saying he’d “heard this view for 15 years.” The student said he condemned this country for the wrong it had done and was still doing.
Other students in the class were upset about the demonstration. One told the demonstrators that the student was disrespectful to have walked out on the earlier lecture. One was upset that the class time was being wasted on “stupid comments” that should have been ignored and eventually left, cursing.
As class ended, an administrator came into the class to talk with the professor. (No officials at N.C. State were available for comment before press time for this article.)