Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, excoriated Fox News on Thursday, saying that the “mob-like mentality” of its “fringe audience” caused her to cancel her upcoming public appearances over fear of grievous injury.
After giving the commencement speech at Hampshire College – where she called President Donald Trump a “racist and sexist megalomaniac” — Taylor said that Fox News aired footage of her speech and as a result was inundated with threats.
In a statement released on Thursday, Taylor said:
“It is with great regret that I have decided to cancel my public lectures scheduled at Seattle’s Town Hall 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.
Earlier this month, I delivered the commencement address at Hampshire College’s graduation ceremony. 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.
Shortly after the Fox story and video were published, my work email was inundated with vile and violent statements. I have been repeatedly called ‘n*****,’ ‘b***h,’ ‘c**t,’ ‘d**e,’ ‘she-male,’ and ‘c**n’ — a clear reminder that racial violence is closely aligned with gender and sexual violence. 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.
In some sense, then, they have been successful.
In the last few weeks, white racists have committed heinous acts of violence. On May 20, a 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.’ And just this past weekend, a white supremacist in Portland, Oregon, murdered two men and attempted to murder another, when all three 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. 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.
The cancelation of my speaking events is a concession to the violent intimidation that was, in my opinion, provoked by Fox News. But I am releasing this statement to say that I will not be silent. Their side uses the threat of violence and intimidation because they cannot compete in the field of politics, ideas, and organizing. 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.”
The Washington Times reported on Thursday that Taylor, in her speech, told the students that the world in which they would soon become a larger part of is “increasingly dangerous,” and noted that Trump’s campaign consisted of “racism, corporatism, and militarism.”
A spokesperson for Princeton confirmed with HigherEd that Taylor is currently on sabbatical and is aware of the threats she has received as a result of her commencement speech.
See her commencement speech in the video below.