St. John’s University has launched a probe into one of its history professors after he allegedly asked one of his classes if “there was good” to come from slavery.
A group calling itself the Radical Social Justice Warriors at St. John’s accused Professor Richard Taylor of using “disgusting rhetoric” and demanded his dismissal.
“Richard Taylor, an adjunct instructor, has been removed from the classroom and the matter is under investigation,” St. John’s University spokesman Brian Browne said.
Farudh Majid, a masters student at SJU studying government and politics, explained that the group that accused Taylor is called The Radicals, which is a non-university-related student organization that worked on the letter collectively, but other members did not want their names used out fears of retribution from the school’s administration. The Radicals’ mission is to battle systematic injustice on campus.
“We crafted the letter and posted it on Instagram and before long there were 1,000 likes and more than 2,000 shares,” Majid said.
Taylor, a former NYPD police officer and U.S. Marine Corps reservist, could not be reached for comment. He is also a doctoral candidate at St. John’s whose research interests focus on the evolution of militarization within the New York City Police Department.
“It is outrageous that in 2020, our Black students are endangered by disgusting rhetoric used by a Professor, an individual who has a responsibility to adhere to the mission of our university to uphold a global community, to speak of slavery as if there was ‘good to come from it,” The Radicals wrote. “Justifying slavery and the oppression that results from it is a strong act of racism, of aggression, and invalidates the experiences of Black people and other BIPOC individuals with connections to slavery. It pushes forth the belief that slavery was okay. Every day that Professor Taylor continues to teach, Black lives are ignored. Black pain is ignored. History is ignored, manipulated, and watered down.”
The Radicals added that “the wrongness of slavery is not a debate or a controversial issue” and that it is not fit for a “pros and cons list,” and that any pro “was granted to White people only, and the ‘diversity’ that has resulted in the United States from slavery is not to have its impacts weighed, especially by students whose ancestors did not have a say is being brought to this continent.”
The Radicals concluded their letter saying, “If Professor Taylor continues to teach at this university, St. John’s University can never be anti-racist or claim it values Black lives.”
The group posted on Instagram soon after Taylor was removed. They shared a letter emailed to his students from Professor Nerina Rustomji, the chair of the SJU history department.
Although she was unable to comment on the investigation she did say, “I would like to express our department’s commitment to anti-racism and to creating classroom environments where students feel included, respected and enlightened by course content and dialogue.”