By Sierra Underdue
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Tommy J. Curry, a professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University, told a crowd of 50 people at Red Emma’s that there is no room in current academic spaces to talk about black men other than through hip hop and imprisonment.
History has ignored the fact that black men were beaten and raped by both their masters and masters’ wives throughout the period before the Civil War, he said.
He argued that black men are often stereotyped as rapist, thugs and physical abusers—a historical narrative that, he said, does not take into account the historical trauma that African American males have endured throughout their history in North America.
“When we speak about black males we often find ourselves encountering discussions that force us down narrow paradigms of pathology,” Curry said. “Conversations about patriarchy and misogyny are thought to be all encompassing. Black masculinity becomes synonymous with violence.”
Curry was promoting his new book, “The Man-Not,” during the event at Red Emma’s, an employee-owned café and bookstore that aims to provide the Baltimore community with a space for open conversations about topics that don’t normally make it into mainstream debate.
Curry came under fire last May when the American Conservative quoted a statement the professor made in a 2012 podcast interview in which he appeared to suggest that some white people would have to die before African Americans gained true equality.
Curry and his supporters have said that the conservative publication took his statements out of context. They say Curry was speaking about the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, adding that he was not advocating violence but simply referencing the historic role that armed rebellion has played throughout the black community’s struggle for equality in America.
Opponents called for his resignation, and the president of Texas A&M released a statement last spring in which he called Curry’s comments disturbing.
Curry countered that the American Conservative is a white supremacist site. He said his life had been threatened and he was subjected to numerous racial slurs since the publication’s story ran.
The American Conservative has denied that it is a racist publication. Richard Spencer, who has been called a white supremacist by the Anti-Defamation League, worked as an editor at the publication for several months until he was fired in 2007 for what the magazine’s founding editor called his extreme views.
“When I first wrote this book I didn’t know what to do,” Curry said during his speech in Baltimore. “There isn’t really a place in the academy where you can actually cover topics regarding black men unless you’re talking about stereotypes. So it’s actually an honor to be able to study and write a book beyond black men and stereotypes or hip hop culture.”
For the most part, the audience seemed open and receptive to Curry’s argument despite what appeared to be some initial unease and tension in the room.
“I’ve had black teachers tell me that I’m not college material or kids show visible fear of me in the classroom,” said Chris Randall, a Baltimore native who attended the speech. “That’s not even to get into systems like the police which is much worse. So, finally to hear Curry’s work on the Man-Not gives a push at what causes a lot of that behavior from those people.”
“I think Dr. Curry’s book is an eye opener or challenge to the current trajectory in the way in which we articulate violence in the black community,” said Anthony Day, another Baltimore resident who heard the speech. “We see black men as only the ones to commit violence but not affected by it, not affected by trauma. I think it’s important that we have this conversation, that we continue this conversation.”
Curry read the first few pages of his new book during the session.