A group of white students stormed out of a college classroom in a huff earlier this week after their professor told them that all living people originated from Africa. The incident occurred this Tuesday in a cultural anthropology class at Texas State University.
According to Justine Lundy, a student in the class, Tuesday’s meeting began with the professor, Dr. R. Jon McGee, telling the class that the day’s lecture would be on race and would be particularly interesting. Dr. McGee then discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and its origins, making clear, Lundy says, that he “wasn’t picking sides or anything.”
Dr. McGee then explained to the class the universally accepted fact that modern humans originated in East Africa. These anthropology students, apparently, were not convinced. According to Lundy, “it was dead silent” until a student retorted with a “sarcastic ‘sure.’” At that point several white students began to leave.
“A lot of people left,” said Karene Taylor, another student in the class, “it was embarrassing.” Some of those who did stay began arguing with the professor and their fellow students, some of whom began chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
When interviewed by the school paper, Dr. McGee said that he thought the group “as a whole is open-minded” and emphasized that “understanding other people’s perspectives is a basic part of cultural anthropology.” For conservatives, however, understanding other perspectives necessarily means undermining their own notions of cultural or racial superiority, and clearly that is a leap of empathy that many are still not able or willing to make.
That such blatant and ignorant racism could exist in this day and age is shocking, although the campaign of Donald Trump has certainly done much to legitimize this sort of outrageous post-fact bigotry. More than anything else, however, the incident emphasizes the importance of education and open-mindedness, values that are often critically lacking in our citizens.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.