Kellie Carter Jackson, an associate professor of African studies at Wellesley College, had never received hate mail before.
Then, in June 2020, he wrote an article on George Floyd’s protests, addressing the role of unrest in social change and noting: “Freedom through violence is a privilege only possessed by whites.”
That piece posted in the atlantic, and Carter Jackson’s appearance on the magazine’s podcast, was enough to place her on the Faculty Watch List, an online list of scholars curated by the right-wing group Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a powerful Donald supporter. Trump and his Republican Party allies.
Whether it’s through the list, which has gained new attention this week after it expanded and gained a fancy new website, or the article, or the podcast, or a combination of all three, Carter Jackson soon received a lot of obscene messages. .
“There is a folder that I keep called ‘hate mail’ in my email and I have received a lot of those messages: ‘I hope you die’, just crazy and horrible things”, Carter Jackson, author of the book Strength and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence, said.
He also received postcards at his office on the Wellesley, Massachusetts campus. One had an image that seemed to be inspired by Dante’s Inferno, Carter Jackson said. Written on the other side was something less artistic.
“It was like, ‘Crazy bitch, I hope you die,’ yada yada yada,” he said.
The list first released in 2016, like an online catalog of nearly 200 college professors that Turning Point USA had deemed to be promoting “left wing propaganda in the classroom.” This month, several academics noted that the website had received a stylish makeover, with Oleg Urminsky, a professor at the University of Chicago, counting 182 academics who had recently been added to the list.
The website allows users to search for professors or universities, and offers detailed biographies of academics that Turning Point considers to have radical views. According to its website, the Professor Watchlist is “a carefully aggregated list.”
“We only publish profiles on incidents that have been reported and published through a credible source,” the website says, though those sources include the right-wing Daily Caller website and Campus Reform, a news website. founded by a conservative group.
Turning Point USA, founded by Charlie Kirk, a talk show host and conservative activist who has become a prominent source of Covid-19 misinformation and voter fraud conspiracies, did not respond to a number of questions about the list of surveillance.
The group was a key promoter of the January 6 meeting in Washington DC that led to a violent insurrection, offering bus rides and free accommodation, while Kirk himself said he organized more than 80 buses “full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.”
That backdrop gives it a menacing air.
“Sometimes I think that many of these extremists bark and do not bite, but at the same time, January 6 was very real, and I am very aware that there are people who are not above using violence, resorting to violence, so they’re terrifying, “said Carter Jackson.
“I don’t let it influence everything I do, because I can’t function in a state of paranoia. But at the same time, I am very aware of it. “
On Twitter, some noted that the Turning Point list seemed to disproportionately name academics of color compared to white professors. “Only 7.3% of Harvard professors are black; however, 5 of the 7 professors on Harvard’s ‘Teacher Watch List’ are black, ”said Stephen Latham. wrote.
Hakeem jefferson, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University, who learned that he had been placed on the watch list in early September, said the watch list was “a shameful attempt to harass professors into keeping quiet. , especially to teachers of color and those who belong to other historically marginalized groups ”.
Jefferson’s biography on the professor’s watch list is unusually long. Among Jefferson’s “radical” ideas, according to the list, is his claim that “conservative white Americans” led the assault on the US Capitol “because of their inability to accept the election results.”
“The Turning Point USA Teacher Watch List is a team designed to intimidate teachers who express beliefs that frustrate the status quo and threaten the maintenance of existing power structures in the United States,” Jefferson said in an email. electronic.
“This tactic just won’t work on me, not even a little bit. I will not remain silent in the face of attacks on American democracy that mock the ideals of this country, nor will I stop speaking honestly and clearly about what is at the root of so much that afflicts us: the commitment of many white Americans to the United States. white. supremacy in all its groundless glory.
“Yes, it was this commitment to white supremacy that led many to storm the United States Capitol on January 6 and it is this commitment to white supremacy that forms the basis of attacks on the core features of democracy. , including the right to vote. It is also a commitment to white supremacy that inspires those who run the TPUSA Faculty Watch List to target academics like me who believe the truth is still worth telling. “
Carter Jackson is equally challenging. He has received far more messages of support than hate, and said that he “will never stop doing the job.”
“You go back to the 20s, 40s, 50s, 60s, there have always been people trying to defame academics, journalists or activists, people who are trying to tell the truth to power,” he said.
“Something about this makes me feel even more empowered. Often with academics you write something, be it a book or an article, and fall into this void where no one pays attention ”.
She added: “This lets me know that people are paying attention and, if anything, I think it attracts more people to my work than they would have seen otherwise.”