The New York Times published an opinion piece by Emory University philosophy professor George Yancy recently and it stood out to BU SAVE because of the relevance it has to our campaign. Yancy was recently informed by his students that he had been placed on the “Professor Watchlist,” a website created and run by a conservative youth group called Turning Point USA. He was one of some 200 professors marked on this site as advancing “leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
The goal of the Watchlist is to “out” professors for their progressive views, and it is also fueled by their race. Yancy, a black man, said he is used to being marked by his race, but never before had he been marked because of his ideas. And in the Watchlist’s attempts to mark Yancy and other professors’ ideas, it intends to shame them and their views into silence.
Yancy warns that a watchlist such as this one can have an effect similar to Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, which essentially created a self-censorship and mental imprisonment. The Watchlist is designed to not only have others spy on these professors, but also to try to psychologically implement self-policing on their thoughts and ideas.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self‐defeating effects of physical violence.”
What George Yancy, Martin Luther King, and SAVE have in common is the refusal to stay silent. The creators of the Watchlist are trying to control others through spreading fear because they perceive the professors ideas as “dangerous,” when in fact they are just different from their own. But we, at SAVE, are trying to spread the ideas of awareness and action, and encourage people not to let themselves be governed by fear of differences.
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