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Controversy on Bray Antifa Comments

The Manchester Union Leader has issued an editorial supporting President Hanlon’s condemnation of Lecturer/GRID Visiting Scholar Mark Bray. Bray has been widely criticized for seemingly supporting the violent tactics of antifa groups:

Bray Union Leader Comp.jpg

In a rebuttal of the criticism of Bray, Professors of History Bethany Moreton, Annelise Orleck, Pamela Voekel, Udi Greenberg, Margaret Darrow, and Eng-Beng Lim; and Professors of English Jeff Sharlet and Julia Rabig have signed a letter addressed to Hanlon that calls Phil’s critique inaccurate and describes Bray’s comments as merely descriptive of historical events, rather than being a call for present-day violence. [Update: It now seems that I only obtained an early version of the letter. Sources now indicate that 120 Dartmouth faculty members have signed it. Some correspondents on the faculty have asserted that the professors’ chief concern is that Phil drafted his statement without contacting Bray.]

The three-page missive notes that as soon as Hanlon’s “statement was issued, Professor Bray began receiving death threats,” and that “Professor Bray was exposed to violent threats, without so much as a basic effort [by the administration] even to warn him that the College intended to endorse the mischaracterization of his position and the implied attack on his scholarly standing by making clear he had no institutional support.”

Addendum: Bray was the subject of a lengthy interview in the Chronicle on Higher Education on Friday. In it he is quoted as saying:

I don’t think that we can be neutral about fascism or neutral about white supremacy. Given the stakes of the current political moment and a really dangerous attempt by the “alt-right” to make racism great again, I felt it was incumbent upon me, not only as a scholar but as an activist and also as a Jew who lost part of my family in the Holocaust, to encourage people through whatever means they see fit to organize against white supremacy. [Emphasis added]

“Through whatever means” sure sounds like Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary” statement — though he replaces Brother Malcolm’s “necessary” caveat with the entirely subjective “they see fit.” Do Bray’s words seem to you to be a condemnation of violence or the support of it — or just artful ambiguity? After all, what does “to organize” mean? I’ll take the latter two choices.

Malcolm X Any means.jpg

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Professor Bray urges people to organize against “white supremacy” through whatever means they see fit. It is not clear exactly what Bray had in mind by the term white supremacy, and this is itself a tactic; remain as indefinite as possible about something pejorative, and thereby apply it as widely as possible.

In academic usage, according to Wikipedia, particularly in usage drawing on critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” can also refer to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy a structural advantage (privilege) over other ethnic groups, both at a collective and an individual level. Uhh, I think this is what Bray believes we have.

Is Bray calling then for the violent overthrow of our political system? Who knows, but the vagueness adds to the radical chic.

He doesn’t seem to be talking about just the insignificant minority of people who are neo-Nazis and Klan members. He clearly sees what he calls white supremacy as a systemic threat. As far as I can tell, most people he would call white supremacists are actually separatists; they simply want to live apart and be left alone. But then doesn’t the term cover all those liberals of all races who seek to avoid contact by living in better neighborhoods, sending their children to better schools, working in places where disfavored races or ethnic groups have a low presence except through prosperous and well educated exemplars? Are these liberals then to be subject to violent attack?

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