On Thursday the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia sponsored a panel discussion on “Engaging Race: On Violence, Citizenship, and Social Justice.” The keynote speaker was Dr. Khalil Muhammad, Director of the New York Public Library’s prestigious Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Dr. Muhammad, formerly a historian at Indiana University and author of a highly regarded book, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard, 2010), should not be confused with Khalid Muhammad, the notorious New Black Panther Party raging anti-semite who died in 2001.) And yet such confusion would be entirely understandable because his inflammatory rhetoric was not as different from that of the deceased Muhammad as his impeccable credentials should have suggested.
According to a report in the Charlottesville Daily Progress,
Muhammad compared the shooting, as well as the deaths of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and Missouri teen Michael Brown, to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till.
“Isn’t [the] Michael Brown [shooting] just a modern-day lynching?” Muhammad said. “No trial, no due process, just summary execution.”
According to the Justice Department’s report on the Ferguson shooting, both the short and the full, complete answer to that question is “no.” Presumably Dr. Muhammad thinks that both President Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder are guilty of complicity with lynching, and his opinion of Virginians is no more charitable. “Muhammad recounted walking through Richmond with his children,” according to the Daily Progress, “and telling them they were in ‘enemy territory.’”
Other speakers sang variations of the same tune. Dennis Childs, for example, a literature professor at the University of California, San Diego, equated convict labor with slave labor. “If we are to properly memorialize [the recent church shooting] in Charleston,” he said, “we have to attend to those [incarcerated].”
No wonder so many students wind up with wacky ideas about race and justice.