Police stand guard as ‘White Racism’ class opens at Florida university

A Florida university placed campus police outside a sociology class called “White Racism” after its professor was flooded with harassing emails and messages -- some of them openly racist, CNN reported.

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Tuesday was the first day of the spring semester and there were no incidents reported in the class taught by Ted Thornhill, an assistant professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. The course was announced last fall and sparked reaction, much of it negative, CNN reported.

“I think most of us don't anticipate there being any unrest or protest or anything like that," Thornhill told the News-Press of Fort Myers. “But it's more of a prudent measure to have law enforcement present just in case."

“All that it takes is that one person to act on their views,” Thornhill, who is black, told CNN. “We've got to be cautious because you don't know what people are capable of.”

According to the course description, the class will “interrogate the concept of race; examine the racist ideologies, laws, policies, and practices that have operated for hundreds of years to maintain white racial domination over those racialized as non-white.” It also will “discuss ways to challenge white racism and white supremacy toward promoting an anti-racist society where whiteness is not tied to greater life chances.”

Thornhill said he decided to title the course “White Racism” because he believes it accurately signifies the material.

“I understood that many white Americans, and some people of color, would find it provocative,” he told CNN.

The professor said he wasn't surprised when he was besieged with messages -- most of them negative -- and some hate mail in the days and weeks after the course was announced. 

He said he was shocked by the reaction but was not backing down.

“It is not my job to provide white people with comfort,” he told CNN.

Thornhill said his course is about a search for truth.

“My White Racism course is not anti-white; it is anti-white racism," he said in a written statement sent to CNN and other news outlets. “Clearly, not all white people are racists; some are even anti-racist. However, all people racialized as white derive, in some measure, material and psychological benefits by virtue of being racialized as white.”

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