Letter: Respect King’s legacy and boycott UNCA speaker

Graphic by Lori Deaton

You are encouraged to boycott UNC Asheville’s Martin Luther King Jr. [Week] speaker, hatemonger Tamika Mallory. She praises Louis Farrakhan, who [compares] Jews [to termites], and he is also certainly no friend of the LGBTQ community.

A leader of the Women’s March, Mallory uses many platforms from which to further her hate speech. What is the goal of our university in supporting her hatemongering MLK speech held in Lipinsky Auditorium, a building named for a Jewish philanthropist? How insulting, repulsive and painful this must be to many in our community.

Should our public universities encourage anti-Semitism and hatred of anybody? Don’t we have enough of that already, especially now? Isn’t hatred of others the opposite of what MLK Jr. preached? We deserve better treatment than this travesty presents and more responsible spending of our tax dollars.

I encourage supporters of this event in the past to respect Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by not attending this event this year at UNCA on Jan. 24. Speak up against class, racial, gender and religious hatred and those who promote it. Join the protesters outside.

— Janet Burhoe-Jones
Swannanoa

Editor’s note: Mallory did not reply to emails asking her to respond to specific points raised in the letter. The New York Times noted in a Dec. 23 article that Mallory has called Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan (who has been making anti-Semitic remarks for years) “the GOAT” or “greatest of all time” on social media, while also reporting that Mallory and a fellow Women’s March organizer “categorically condemn anti-Semitism.”

A column Mallory wrote last March, before Farrakhan’s “termite” comment, explained her presence at a Nation of Islam event adding: “I was raised in activism and believe that as historically oppressed people, Blacks, Jews, Muslims and all people must stand together to fight racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. … It is impossible for me to agree with every statement or share every viewpoint of the many people who I have worked with or will work with in the future.”

Sarah Broberg, special assistant to the chancellor for communication and marketing at UNC Asheville, responded that the university has been in talks with members of the campus community, the greater Asheville community and local rabbinical leaders about additional opportunities for public discussion related to Mallory’s appearance. That includes the organization Carolina Jews for Justice, which posted a statement on its website last week (avl.mx/5kp).

“There’s been a lot of community feedback about this and … based on that feedback, we’ve made a concerted effort to engage with the community and hear all of the views and work together to provide some additional context to the activities that are taking place over the course of that week,” Broberg told Xpress.

The university also issued a statement on its website from Chancellor Nancy J. Cable and interim Provost Karin Peterson, which says in part: “The Constitutional and democratic principles of freedom of thought and expression are central to our mission as a university, especially during the day honoring the legacy and enduring values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As has been our custom, the university’s invitation to an individual speaker at a university event in no way implies endorsement of that speaker’s comments, critiques, views, ideas or actions. Further, the university’s fundamental principles reject bias in all of its forms including anti-Semitism and discrimination. …

“At their best, universities are places where thoughtful discussions and respectful disagreements can take place. Students, faculty, staff and the community benefit from conversations, lectures and roundtables that strengthen our ability to think critically and to judge independently. …”

See also “Remembering King: Annual Prayer Breakfast to Feature Green of the Little Rock Nine” in this issue for more info about local events centered on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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16 thoughts on “Letter: Respect King’s legacy and boycott UNCA speaker

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Yes! and challenge UNC-A to invite Ben Shapiro soon as possible for a forum!

    • SpareChange

      I’d support Shapiro speaking. Sign him up! For all his crybaby whining about how those mean liberals ruin his life, he is one of the few right wingers to really call out the phony or seriously deluded evangelicals, and other supposed social, political, and economic conservatives (like Mark Meadows and Franklin Graham), who support and enable the lying, porn star defiling, cheeto-colored sleaze ball who occupies the White House. https://youtu.be/yX5dBzxKNOw

  2. Izzy

    This is a keynote speech which is an honor. The university is probably paying for her to speak. Isn’t that different than “allowing freedom of speech”? Garbage university.

  3. UNCA student (women, gender, and sexualities major)

    I am a student at UNCA- I am queer, Jewish, Buddhist, believe in non-violent communication and am a women, gender, and sexualities major.

    At UNCA we pride ourselves on grounding our ideas and experiences in awareness and equalities. Together, we are stronger than divided. I am grateful for the opportunity to hear Tamika D. Mallory and attend her master class for UNCA students- only.

    If you dont like it, dont attend and please support UNCA being a safe space for learning and keep hate off our campus so we can learn and grow without being censored by others views.

    • Izzy

      I’d agree with you and be fine if the university even allowed a David Duke of the KKK to speak. The problem is this is a keynote speech which besies the university probably paying for, is an honor. Don’t you think it would be kind of messed up if David Duke were to be the keynote speaker? And please never use the fact that you’re Jewish to quash concerns of antisemitism. Unfortunately, that is compelling for some people, but you do not speak for all Jews. If you want to argue it’s not antisemitic, use words instead.

    • SpareChange

      I certainly endorse the general sentiments and values you articulate. However, where some are tone deaf (especially among too many of the soft-left who push identity politics over other bases of political mobilization) is when it comes to calling out discrimination and bigotry when it is expressed toward people or groups with whom they do not identify, or who they have not viewed as “oppressed.”

      Mallory has been rightly called to account for her consistent failure to condemn Louis Farrakhan’s bigotry, even when it has been articulated on the same stages she has shared. This is not a hard thing to do, and that he is a bigot is not contestable given his very long and obvious track record of anti-semitic, anti-white, anti-Christian and anti-LGBT rhetoric and actions. He has even acknowledged that his hateful rhetoric made him complicit in the murder of Malcolm X after Malcolm distanced himself from the bigotry and hypocrisy being articulated by Elijah Muhammed and Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan consistently and unapologetically violates that essential core value inherent in any notion of progressive politics — namely, that we are all equal.

      Mallory has had every opportunity to distance herself from his bigotry, and she has refused to do so. That’s fine — but in light of that, let us all at least be intellectually honest enough to then say that she is not a progressive in any meaningful sense of the word, and that she is certainly not adhering to the values you profess to adhere to, much less those articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King.

    • Stan Hawkins

      One must remember that UNCA is a publically funded institution in both federal and state tax revenues. These revenues are collected from those that have a taxable income. Many of those with taxable incomes would certainly long to see a more diverse selection of speakers including welcoming those that may disagree with your opinions. Thank you for expressing your views.

      I certainly respect your right to free expression of your ideas. As an interested citizen of Buncombe, I am always concerned when someone uses the word “hate” to describe someone who may disagree with your vision of America and the World. Be advised, someone who may believe in the Judeo- Christian founding principles of America as described by our first president, George Washington, may indeed reject liberal views on gender selection, teaching of same in K-12 education, abortion and the public funding of same, and excessive taxation on the productivity of America. To buy in to the liberal philosophy to frame these disagreements as “hate” and project that upon those who disagree with you seems to be counter to the ideals of a higher education; namely thinking for your self and an inquiring mind.

      I would encourage you to challenge yourself and others who use the word “hate” to try to understand why someone may not agree with where you / they want America to go. Certainly, there are fringes on all issues, but many simply long for an America where we can disagree without being labeled some name.

      Good luck in your education.

    • Adam M.

      I am a former UNCA student — gay, ethnically half-Jewish, vegan, a moderate liberal, pro-choice, a supporter of woman’s rights, atheist, a survivor of childhood rape, and I suffer from a mood disorder with PTSD, and I pride myself in not supporting and not advocating for a woman who is clearly an anti-semite. The fact of the matter is that Louis Farrakhan is a loud, proud and outspoken anti-semite. He is responsible for perpetuating hatred and resentment for Jews within the black community. So, if you support him, believe he is the greatest man that ever was as Ms. Mallory does, then you are behaving as an anti-semite. There are no two ways about it. MLK was a pacifist who respected and appreciated the Jews. Louis Farrakhan is the opposite. So why would UNCA be so proud to have a woman speak in recognition of MLK when she is an anti-semite? She can’t deny herself as an anti-semite when she supports and believes so strongly in a man who is a “poster child” for antisemitism. So, she is guilty of supporting hatred by supporting Farrakhan. If you want to keep hate off your campus, then don’t have people such as Ms. Mallory speaking on your campus. Would you support Donald Trump or Mike Pence speaking on your campus? I think not, and I certainly hope not. But I’m quite certain that you would be very quick to censor their views (which is completely justified and the right thing to do, since they are hate mongers just as Louis Farrakhan is). I find it highly hypocritical for Ms. Mallory to speak in the name of MLK while supporting Louis Farrakhan. It would have been fine for UNCA to have a black woman who isn’t an anti-semite speak in the name of MLK, but they didn’t. They made a poor decision in allowing her to speak. That’s great to have a black woman speak in the name of MLK, but at least choose a black woman who isn’t an anti-semite.

  4. Richard B.

    “At their best, universities are places where thoughtful discussions and respectful disagreements can take place. Students, faculty, staff and the community benefit from conversations, lectures and roundtables that strengthen our ability to think critically and to judge independently. …”. Nice quote from the Chancellor and interim Provost. What they left out is “At their worst, universities are now managed and operated by liberals whose mantra is to spread {diversity and freedom of thought}, as well as to make a big bang to keep the PR strong and the money rolling in from well off liberal donors”.

    Come now, why did you invite this controversial speaker, knowing the row it would create, instead of just about anyone else who is accomplished enough to speak of the great Dr. King?
    I agree with Ms. Janet’s letter, this is not the place or the time.

  5. Richard B.

    Impressive comments folks, esp. Izzy, Spare, and Stan. Thoughtful and compelling responses.
    And Kudos to Mt. Express for the Editor’s Note which did an excellent job of rounding out and putting Ms. Janet’s letter into a fuller context.

  6. Peter Robbins

    Tamika Mallory’s problem is sentence structure. As I understand it, she takes the position that while she abhors anti-Semitism (in the abstract), she refuses to disavow Louis Farrakhan (in the particular) because of the good that the Nation of Islam has done in the past (in terms of anti-drug efforts, community involvement, sartorial excellence, etc.). That’s just messed up. What she should do is reverse the subordinate and main clauses, and say that while she admires some things the Nation of Islam has done, she denounces Farrakhan for his anti-Semitism and, on the basis of that moral stance alone, she refuses to have anything further to do with him. That minor editing strikes the proper balance among conflicting values, and Mallory’s failure couch the question in these terms renders her morally unfit she to serve as a keynote speaker. She simply lends too much legitimacy to a disreputable figure. We do not want to create the impression — even an oblique one — that lifelong bigotry can be overlooked as a mere foible in an otherwise great man.

    Think of it this way: If there were a monument to Louis Farrakhan in the center of a tolerant city like Asheville, everyone would be appalled and want to see something else in its place – well, almost everyone.

    • Izzy

      You give Ms. Mallory far too much credit in assuming she has good intentions. She advocated a boycott of Starbucks for their affiliation with the Anti-Defamation League because supposedly they hate black people. Assuming this is true, (which of course it is not, the ADL’s mission statement says they are against discrimination of any kind, a far cry from what Farrakhan preaches) she understands that it is wrong to be affected with (let alone actually support) a hate group. I would think she’d support a boycott of herself. All joking aside, I don’t believe she has good intentions. Given this and some of her other statements about Jews upholding white supremacy, I don’t think she’s just supporting an antisemite, I think she is an antisemite.

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