Texas A&M University officials have described as alarming several comments made by a tenured professor in a nearly 5-year-old YouTube interview in which he discusses racial divide over time.
Amy Smith, A&M's chief marketing and communications officer, told The Eagle on Wednesday evening that administrators found the statements made by Tommy Curry "alarming on many levels and we find it certainly in direct contrast with Aggie core values in its content.”
In the 5-minute recording - in which Curry is interviewed by online talk show host Rob Redding - he touches on the movie "Django Unchained" in which he says it prompted a backlash from white conservatives who were offended, accusing the lead character - Jamie Foxx - of being racist. The actor jokingly said during his monologue on a 2012 episode of Saturday Night Live that his new movie was "great" because his character was able to kill "all the white people."
Early in his interview, Curry says he wanted to talk about the context of such a statement.
"...When we have this conversation about violence or killing white people it has to be looked at in the kind of this historical turn. And the fact that we've had no one address, like how relevant and how solidified this kind of tradition is for black people - saying look, in order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people may have to die."
Smith said university officials were not aware of the recording until it surfaced on social media this week.
“I want to afford him the respect that was not afforded in those comments to others that was said five years ago,” Smith said when asked about Curry's comments. “We are Aggies and we have to stand up for what we believe in. People have a right to their First Amendment right, but so do we.”
A&M's reaction to the comments come six months after denouncing comments made by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who was invited by a former student to speak on campus. The university published a statement shortly after his event was announced, saying A&M does "not endorse his rhetoric in any way." The university went on to host a counter-event across the street, focusing on unity. It drew thousands, while thousands protested outside and inside the building in which Spencer spoke.
Like with Spencer, Smith acknowledged Curry’s First Amendment right to express his personal views but noted that Texas A&M has a policy against faculty or staff expressing inflammatory views while in a university-affiliated context.
The recording mentions A&M once — at the beginning when the host is introducing the A&M professor. Curry doesn't reference the university.
Curry has taught at Texas A&M for eight years, joining the Department of Philosophy staff in fall 2009. This semester, Curry - who is black - taught a class in radical black philosophies, as well as a graduate course on social and political philosophy. He's considered an expert in critical race theory and Africana philosophy.
Pamela Matthews, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and George - the department chief - will be meeting with Curry to discuss his right to offer personal views on his own time and also doing so in a way that is not affiliated with his role at Texas A&M, Smith said.
Smith said she does not want the statement from the university to "harm" Curry, rather, she said she wants there to be “peace all around.”
“We just want to articulate that for which we stand,” Smith said. “That is for core values and not for what was said in that interview said years ago that apply to a member of our own faculty.”
He has written about and made presentations for years on racism, white privilege, black radicality, hip hop and the Klu Klux Klan, as well as and stereotypes, among others.
Curry graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1999. He earned degrees in philosophy and political science in 2004 from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale where he graduated with university and department honors. There, he also minored in Black American Studies. That next year, he again graduated with honors for a master’s degree in philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. He secured his doctorate degree in philosophy from Southern Illinois in 2009.