Over the past week our colleague Brittney Cooper has come under a renewed wave of racist attacks for her public scholarship. We wish to express our unequivocal solidarity with Dr. Cooper, to affirm our support of her academic freedom, and to decry the harassment and intimidation she now faces, including threats of physical violence fueled by a media smear campaign.
Dr. Cooper is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Africana Studies Department. A renowned and widely acclaimed scholar and public intellectual, Professor Cooper has published four books and numerous mainstream and scholarly articles, and is a regular commentator on news outlets such as MSNBC. As an expert in Black Feminist Thought, Black Women’s Intellectual History, and Cultural Studies, her scholarship illuminates the harm and devastation wrought by anti-Black racism and white supremacist projects, past and present, as well as the specific contributions of Black women in theorizing and resisting these racist systems. A bad-faith media disinformation campaign has grossly misrepresented Professor Cooper’s communication of her research findings, falsely accusing her of promoting violence, in contradiction to her long-standing position of espousing nonviolence. This smear campaign is not only an attack on her scholarly integrity but has incited threats to her physical safety. This represents a clear assault on academic freedom.
Academic freedom is fundamental to the academic enterprise and the advancement of knowledge. The attacks against Dr. Cooper take place within a context of increasing efforts to censor research and teaching on racial injustice on university campuses and in public education. We condemn the use of death threats, racist and sexist hate mail, attempts to threaten job security, and attempted cyberattacks. These forms of harassment are at once attacks directed at Professor Cooper’s person as well as part of a broader pattern of trying to silence people of color, and particularly Black women, through tactics of intimidation and harassment. They cause harm to the Rutgers community of students, staff, and faculty, and seek to shut down critical thinking more broadly.
Rutgers AAUP-AFT stands in solidarity with Professor Cooper and joins with the Rutgers BIPOC Faculty Caucus to defend the academic freedom rights of our faculty and to denounce these violent attacks on Professor Cooper.