Prejudice and injustice in the Trump era can be a fragile subject. Make it the focus of an upper-level sociology course at one of Florida’s public universities, and you’ve all but lit a powder keg.
Ted Thornhill, a human science instructor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, is teaching a course this spring called "White Racism.”
As per the course description, it looks at "the supremacist belief systems, laws, approaches, and hones that have worked for many years to keep up white racial mastery over those profiled as non-white" and expects to "cross examine the idea of race" on the loose.
According to Thornhill, thousands of rude and cruel comments have flooded his social media accounts, emails, and voicemails. Thornhill, who is African-American, told nearby news outlets that "the course needs to be taught, and so that’s what’s going to happen." He has been inundated with remarks and racial slurs.
Nevertheless, there have been a few people in favor of this course.
Jesse Synhorst, a senior at Florida A&M University, said that he believes the course is necessary. It’s important, he added, to understand white supremacy and how it functions.
"I think it's important we talk about these issues, especially because we've had these issues on campus,” Synhorst said. “I think the name is a little controversial, but I would certainly take the class and encourage others to do the same and see what it's about before you judge it.”
Darryl Scriven, a member of the FAMU faculty, also said the subject is worth exploring.
“I believe it would be an interesting shift in the classroom just because of the name itself,” said Scriven. “Surveying the course content is considerably more educational than condemning in view of a two-word title.
“At FAMU, we encourage students to challenge their abilities by testing them to ponder on the imperative, regardless of whether if their disputable issues,” he added.
Since Trump's election in November 2016, various educators have offered courses concentrating on "white prejudice" or "white benefit," and in a few examples have been met with some type of suspicion. Florida, a state famously loaded with racial issues and the presence of more than 60 hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is no unbiased ground for a course with such a provocative title.