The sudden announcement Tuesday that Claudine Gay resigned as Harvard's first Black president has some prominent local Black professionals and academics concerned about the role of race in Gay's departure.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Ibram X. Kendi, founder of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, wrote: "Racist mobs won't stop until they topple all Black people from positions of power and influence who are not reinforcing the structure of racism."
Racist mobs won’t stop until they topple all Black people from positions of power and influence who are not reinforcing the structure of racism. What these racist mobs are doing should be obvious to any reporter who cares about truth or justice as opposed to conflicts and clicks. https://t.co/HrRKzprnnv— Ibram X. Kendi (@ibramxk) January 2, 2024
Kendi also said the question about whether this was a racist attack shouldn't be about whether or not Gay engaged in academic misconduct.
"The question is whether all these people would have investigated, surveilled, harassed, written about, and attacked her in the same way if the Harvard president in this case would have been White," Kendi wrote. "I. Think. Not."
Gay resigned after only six months on the job following a firestorm of controversy over her remarks to a congressional panel that did not sufficiently condemn antisemitism and swirling questions about plagiarism in her academic work.
Gay wrote in her resignation letter that she had been the target of personal attacks and threats "fueled by racial animus." She did not disclose specifics.
Kizzmekia Corbett, an assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard and a scientist whose work helped create the COVID-19 vaccine, tweeted that the turn of events left her speechless.
Sometimes, I start my lab meetings with a world view of “things”. It helps to provide a place where it’s clear science is second to sanity, inclusion, respect, etc.— KizzyPhD (@KizzyPhD) January 2, 2024
I don’t even have to words to begin lab meeting next Monday,
My lab is at Harvard. Btw.
Corbett said she strives to foster open discussion and confront difficult issues from the outside world in the lab she oversees.
"I address the elephants in the room, because I recruit people from all walks of life. No matter what is happening in the world, the elephant isn’t just in the room, it’s most likely knocking at someone (in) my lab’s front door," Corbett wrote. "This elephant is at my front door. I’m the black woman in my lab."
Boston-area urban planner Beya Jimenez said she deeply felt what she described as Gay's public humiliation.
"I don't think y'all understand the level of trauma Black + Brown leaders experience when we see one of our own being belittled, humiliated in the public eye," she tweeted. "Even if it's not happening to you, it hurts. It feels like a warning of what's coming for you."
I don't think y'all understand the level of trauma Black + Brown leaders experience when we see one of our own being belittled, humiliated in the public eye. even if its not happening to you, it hurts. it feels like a warning of what's coming for you.— Beya Jiménez (@afrolatinax) January 2, 2024
And Christine Slaughter, an assistant professor of political science at Boston University, kept her message on X simple.
"Black women academics deserve so much better."
Black women academics deserve so much better.— Christine M. Slaughter, PhD (@cmslaughter) January 2, 2024