Skip to comments.Use of 'n' word, blackface incident stir controversy at Emory
Posted on 11/06/2003 7:04:10 AM PST by Lance Romance
Use of 'n' word, blackface incident stir controversy at Emory
By MAE GENTRY
An Emory University professor's public use of the "n" word in September and a "blackface" incident last week have sparked controversy at the school that three years ago underwent a "Year of Reconciliation" on race and diversity issues.
Anthropology Professor Carol Worthman used the phrase "like six n-----s in a woodpile" at a Sept. 15 panel, according to a complaint that assistant professor Tracy Rone filed three days later with the university's Equal Opportunity Programs office.
Rone, who declined to comment for this article, had said she attended the panel and heard Worthman make the remark. She was the only African-American among the audience of anthropology faculty and graduate students.
Worthman, who is white, has acknowledged making the remark following a panel discussion celebrating the anthropology department's 25th anniversary.
Worthman did not want to talk to reporters about the incident, according to university spokeswoman Nancy Seideman. But in a statement issued through Seideman, Worthman said she used the phrase "to explain, in my opinion, how my field [biological anthropology] is viewed by cultural anthropologists outside of Emory. I am distressed that I offended unintentionally."
In another incident last week, two international students attended a campus Halloween party dressed in Afro wigs and blackened faces. That incident prompted an editorial in the Emory Wheel, the student newspaper.
"They hadn't been in the country long," said senior Joel Hall, who wrote the editorial. "I think it was a case of extreme ignorance."
The Emory vice president for Equal Opportunity Programs, Robert Ethridge, said his office investigated Rone's complaint and concluded that Worthman's comment was an isolated incident that did not indicate a pattern of workplace hostility. The office recommended that Rone receive written and public verbal apologies from Worthman and department chairman George Armelagos, who said he was present but did not hear the remark.
"We [also] recommended that [officials] take the most serious action they can take, without having to go through some other processes that faculty [might face]," Ethridge said.
Sanctions against Worthman could range from a verbal reprimand to suspension, Ethridge said.
Armelagos, the anthropology chairman, said, "Action will be taken."
The incident led Bennett College President Johnnetta Cole, an Emory emerita anthropology professor and former Spelman College president, to write a letter to the department urging it to develop a plan "for substantially increasing the number of graduate students and faculty of color."
Rone and another black assistant professor, Huditha Mustafa, characterized conditions in the anthropology department as "institutionalized . . . racism that ranges from marginalization to intimidation," in an Oct. 24 memo to Armelagos, dean of the college Robert Paul and Emory's new president, James W. Wagner.
Mustafa could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The university's Presidential Commission on the Status of Minorities met with Rone, Mustafa and representatives of the university's Equal Opportunity Programs, said Nagueyalti Warren, chairwoman of the commission and associate dean for the undergraduate college.
In a Nov. 3 letter to Wagner, the commission said it wants Emory to reopen and broaden the Worthman investigation and to require all students, faculty and staff members to get "diversity certification."
Warren said her commission thinks that racial problems are systemic at Emory and that action should go beyond the anthropology department.
"The whole community needs to come together and air these issues," she said. "It's at the student level. It's at the faculty level. The climate is not good at this point."
Past efforts to confront racial and other diversity issues, such as the Year of Reconciliation, have been inadequate, she said.
"People could come if they wanted to," Warren said about the earlier year. "What we're suggesting is mandatory."
As a side note, why is it always these bastions of liberal thought that end up in these racial situations.
It's all about jobs. The liberals sit around waiting for any slip so they can try to pry more dollars for their allies. Once you see something like that, you know that "principle" no longer has anything to do with it.
I might add that the professor who used the phrase indeed was in error and needs to be a lot more circumspect with her choice of phrases.
Campus officials are also investigating a clown, a cowboy, and an alien.
What the heck does THAT mean?
The N word, today, is like the "Colored Only" water fountain of 75 years ago. Who uses it only makes a difference to the racist.
We have been shamed by the liberals into believing that the use of blackface is intolerable to blacks. Most of us have accepted that conclusion as did Philadelphia's Mummers who used to march every New Year's Day in blackface. The liberals were indignantly outraged and their running dogs huffed and puffed, demanding the annual parade be halted. The Mummers, in a symbolic raised middle finger, simply changed the color of their face paint from black to green or blue and continued to march leaving the liberals and their black step-n-fetchits looking foolish and petty.
It might be a small issue on campus, but how anyone, much less a college professor, could be surprised that "nigger in a woodpile" might cause some offense is beyond me.
That's just way over the line. Particularly in a public venue while representing your profession.
Tossing out hardcore racial statements like provides her critics all the ammo they need to demand her firing. And I hope they get it.