This past week an Assistant Professor of Human-Centered Computing at Clemson University, Bart Knijnenburg, took to social media to attack all Republicans as racists deserving of violence and scorn.
Mr. Knijnenburg wrote that “All Trump supporters, nay, all Republicans, are racist scum” on his social media account, comments which have prompted passionate debate. In response to a dissenting comment on his post, he went further writing that “All Republicans, yes, your complacency made this happen. Pick a side: denounce your affiliation, or admit that you’re a racist.” The professor’s comments are derogatory and defamatory to the majority of South Carolina voters and millions of Americans who are supporters of the Republican Party.
As a Republican Party official in South Carolina, I felt compelled to respond to this over-the-top rhetoric by sending a letter to Clemson President James Clements to set the record straight.
I told Dr. Clements that “I denounce this sort of hate-filled rhetoric directed at Republicans. As you are well aware, the South Carolina Republican Party helped elect our state’s first-ever female, Indian-American Governor in our friend Nikki Haley. U.S. Senator Tim Scott, one of conservative champions of the United States Senate, is the first African American U.S. Senator from South Carolina and he is a member of the Republican Party. Our Party is diverse, young, and growing, and it is not exclusive to any one race, ethnicity, or gender.” An attack on all Republicans as racist because of the actions of alt-right fanatics in Charlottesville is absurd. The so-called “alt-right” isn’t right, and they certainly do not speak for conservatives like me.
In response to letters like mine to Clemson Administrators, President Clements issued a well-worded response, but did not call on Assistant Professor Knijnenburg to apologize for his hateful rhetoric. While I appreciate Dr. Clements’s response, it still constitutes a double standard. If Mr. Knijnenburg was a Republican, and he had defamed the Democrats, he would have been escorted off campus by security. It is time that all Americans, regardless of our political party or principles, treat one another with dignity and respect. The hateful rhetoric surrounding race, ideology, and party affiliation has reached a fever-pitch not known since the 1960s, and this tenor is untenable. I do hope that Clemson University President Clements asks Mr. Knijnenburg to apologize, and for his resignation if he does not.
In these difficult times for our country, we certainly cannot afford to have academic leaders using their platforms at public universities to fan the flames of division. I hope that Clemson President James Clements can appreciate this fact.