Wed, 21 May 2014
Molefi Asante Must Go, Say Students and Educators
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Asante has succeeded only in making himself a liability to Temple University.”
What began, last year, as a student and community battle to save African American Studies from a racist Dean of Liberal Arts at Temple University, in Philadelphia, is now compelled to also confront the bizarre and ugly specter of McCarthyism in Blackface. Molefi Asante, who became chairman of the African American Studies Department thanks to the student and community campaign, almost immediately betrayed them by collaborating in the firing of Dr. Anthony Monteiro, a leader of the protests, native Philadelphian and W.E.B. Dubois scholar who has taught African American Studies at Temple for a decade. Asante initially claimed he had nothing to do with Temple’s refusal to renew Monteiro’s contract, but, after university officials pointed at him as the instigator of the firing, Asante admitted that he wanted Dr. Monteiro out so that he could remake the department to more closely reflect his own narrow, cultural nationalist politics. In other words, it was a political dismissal.
Then, on May 8, Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill joined a rally in North Philadelphia demanding Dr. Monteiro’s reinstatement and denouncing attempts to purge the radical Black tradition from Black Studies. Asante went on a witch-hunt, calling Cornel West and Marc Lamont Hill “dupes” and describing Dr. Monteiro’s student supporters, who comprise a racial and political rainbow, as “white communists.” Asante claimed the North Philadelphia community had not attended the rally, when in fact a prominent community leader had organized it. Asante slandered Dr. Monteiro as a “charlatan,” and “low-level purveyor of Marxism and anti-African ideas.”
Asante has succeeded only in making himself a liability to Temple University. The scholars who drafted a letter demanding Monteiro’s reinstatement, with tenure – which was signed by 250 prominent educators – have issued a new statement, They deplored “Dr. Asante’s brazen demonization of student protesters and his deployment of racially divisive attacks,” saying this, “together with previous, well-publicized charges of plagiarism and abuse of authority…make him unfit to make decisions about faculty or lead an academic department.”
“Fear is the only card Dr. Asante has left to play.”
The students that Asante verbally abused also say he must be “held accountable.” They rejected Asante’s ludicrous and ahistorical claim that socialism is somehow anti-Black or anti-African, pointing out that W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela were socialists, as was Kwame Nkrumah, the giant of modern pan-Africanism.
The students, who gathered 2,000 signatures of support from their peers at Temple, said Asante had “firmly attached” himself to the right-wing politics of Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover. “Having been thoroughly discredited for his betrayal of Dr. Monteiro and North Philadelphia,” the students wrote, “fear is the only card Dr. Asante has left to play.”
That, and his claim to be super-Black, the ultimate African when, in the real world, he and others like him are ready to betray the struggle at the first opportunity – as they have repeatedly, here and on the continent. Time after time, those who struggle for transformational change find that they must first fight their way through layers of Asantes before they can do righteous battle with the people who actually hold power.
In this case, ironically, it is likely that the people in power will decide that Molefi Asante and his madness are too big a burden for Temple University to bear. They, too, will conclude that Asante must go.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.