Jamie R. Riley, the University of Alabama’s assistant vice president and dean of students, resigned from his position in early September after less than seven months on the job.
The University of Alabama pushed for Riley’s resignation for past tweets that made honest, straightforward statements about racism in America.
The “alt-right” website Breitbart — a site known for its racism, antisemitism, and dishonest smear campaigns — published an article with Dr. Riley’s old tweets. Instead of standing up for Riley, a prominent black leader at the university, the University of Alabama threw him under the bus. According to the university, there was a “mutual agreement” around Dr. Riley’s resignation.
While Riley’s tweets might make some people uncomfortable, they’re well within the mainstream conversation about racism. Here are two of them:
• “The [American flag emoji] flag represents a systemic history of racism for my people. Police are a part of that system. Is it that hard to see the correlation?”
• “I’m baffled about how the 1st thing white people say is, ‘That’s not racist!’ when they can’t even experience racism? You have 0 opinion!”
It’s chilling that the dean of students can lose his job for a couple of old tweets about racism. The university’s actions convey a lack of interest in protecting the academic freedom of black people at the university and an unwillingness to protect black members of its community.
At the same time, the University of Alabama recruits black athletes and makes millions in profits from their unpaid labor (their athletics program brings in $170+ million in revenue per year). Making money off of black students while suppressing their speech makes the University of Alabama seem more like a modern day plantation than a modern university.
By throwing Riley under the bus, the university is essentially telling its black students and employees to keep their mouths shut about racism. Every black person affiliated with the institution ought to be able to voice their experiences of racism.