Professor courts controversy with blog post, statements
For Columbus Day, Teachers College associate professor Marc Lamont Hill wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post titled “The 15 Most Overrated White People.” He created the list, he writes in the piece, because Columbus was “an immoral treasure hunter” who does not deserve the acclaim he has received over the centuries. On Twitter, he described the list as “tongue in cheek.”
The list included figures such as Elvis Presley, William Shakespeare, and Babe Ruth, and featured explanations of why each was not deserving of his or her fame.
On the same day Hill’s blog post was published, he hosted a discussion panel on Huffington Post Live. The segment featured four guests. One of them, Kmele Foster, suggested that it was inappropriate to make the issue a racial one. “Everyone present knows that…you’d run the risk of being branded a racist if you were just a bit fairer-skinned and the subject—and the person we were talking about—was a little darker.”
In response, Hill told Foster that he was allowed to say “white” on his program, and added “I don’t think of ‘white’ as fairer.”
Later Hill said that President Obama “only makes half the list.” He went on to say, “I used to say Obama was half-black, you know. Now that the economy’s dropping, I say he’s half-white.”
Toward the end of the segment, Foster, who is black, explained that he does not self-identify as black because he doesn’t want his achievements linked to his race. Hill replied, ”Do you think that if you win a Nobel prize or something, because you don’t self-identify as black they’re not gonna see you as black? You’re black to the police!” Later in the segment he went on to mock Foster, exclaiming, “Don’t shoot, I’m not black!” and, “Yo cab driver, I’m not black, it’s ok, come on.”
This is not the first time Hill has courted controversy with his public statements. In a September op-ed that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, he said that the United States “has consistently been an agent of terror in the Muslim world.”
In August, he seemed to suggest that Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith may make him unfit to be president, tweeting “I have some SERIOUS questions about his Mormonism.” In a HuffPo Live segment on the issue, he said that when many Americans think of Mormonism, “they think ‘cult.’” Later he added that the theology of Mormonism “shifts to match the political tenor. It seems like the perfect religion for Mitt Romney.” Still later, he displayed a photo of Mormon temple garments, which he referred to as “Jesus jammies,” saying, “Just so you know what Mitt and Ann are wearing at night.”
In January of last year, he called President Obama “a murderer” because of the government’s use of drones in Afghanistan.
Hill has long been a noted social justice activist, working in issues such as black incarceration and drug law reform. In 2005, he was named one of America’s top 30 leaders under 30 years old by Ebony Magazine. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He has been an associate professor at Teachers College since 2009.
We’ve reached out to Hill for comment. We’ll update if we hear from him.
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