Dr. Julianne Malveaux, who once learned that her words can indeed come back to haunt her, is poised to become the first-ever dean of Ethnic Studies at California State University in Los Angeles.
The announcement of the incoming dean’s appointment raised eyebrows and criticism as a look at her past comments sparked questions about the move. Her past comments about Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as well as once wishing for the early death of a Supreme Court justice have resurfaced with the announcement of her stepping in as dean of the newly created College of Ethnic Studies.
A decade ago, Malveaux issued an apology after she expressed her disdain for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas by publicly wishing for his death during a 1994 appearance on PBS, claiming she had meant her words as a “wisecrack.”
“I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter, and he dies early, like many black men do, of heart disease,” she said at the time.
It took Malveaux nearly 20 years to walk back her death-by-breakfast comments aimed at the now 73-year-old conservative black justice, and take into account the damaging results from such flippant and irresponsible comments.
In the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in 2011, Malveaux, who was president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, penned a blog post about the power of hate speech and used the forum to address her own actions, and express regret for the reckless comments aimed at Thomas.
“It has taken me nearly two decades and an attempted assassination to understand the damage that my wisecrack might have caused, not to Justice Thomas, but to the public discourse. I hope it won’t take our nation two more decades to understand and embrace the notion of speech civility, even for, no, especially for, political opponents,” Malveaux said in 2011. “Every day, and in every way, I tell my students, faculty, and staff that I value civility. Yet, my comment about Clarence Thomas was not only uncivil, it was ugly and unnecessary. And it really wasn’t that funny. I regret it. I apologize for it. I wish I could take it back.”
Now, Malveaux, 67, who has a Ph.D. in economics from MIT, is set to begin her term as dean of the College of Ethnic Studies on July 1, and was touted in a press release as a “Nationally renowned economist, scholar and columnist.”
“Learning about people of color, learning about marginalized people, learning the whole of American history is as important as learning quantum physics or English literature,” Malveaux said in a statement.
Cal State LA President William A. Covino raved that it is “a significant appointment for the college, but also for the city and the nation.”
“Like my ethnic studies colleagues, I feel that we are really fortunate to have recruited such a distinguished leader as our inaugural dean,” Professor Jun Xing, chair of the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, added, proclaiming that Malveaux’s “rich experience, national stature and leadership vision will for sure help raise the new college’s profile and make it into a local, national and international center of excellence in the field of ethnic studies.”
In addition to the “wisecrack” about Thomas, Malveaux has also been called out for defending Farrakhan. In a 2018 column in the Birmingham Times, Malveaux declared that white people’s “hatred for Minister Farrakhan is irrational and, might I say, racist.”
“To have a situation where a dean of an American educational institution in the heart of California is a supporter of the most notorious antisemite in America, Louis Farrakhan, is unbelievable,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Jewish Journal, which noted other examples of rhetoric from Malveaux that has many up in arms about her new appointment.
Fox News noted that it did not receive an immediate response to a request for comment from a Cal State LA spokesperson on Malveaux’s comments regarding the Supreme Court justice.
Thomas, who was nominated in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush to replace Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice, has been intensely criticized through the years by the African-American community, who often refer to him as a sellout or a race traitor.
During the 2020 presidential election, MSNBC commentator Joy Reid who was appearing with Rachel Maddow, referred to Thomas as “Uncle Clarence” – presumably a reference to the “Uncle Tom” label many in the African-American community have used to call out other blacks who may not support their political views.
Joy Reid with an absolutely disgusting comment about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas just now on MSNBC
“Do any of you guys trust Uncle Clarence…” pic.twitter.com/a0TLxmFfPY
— Jesse Hunt (@JJHunt10) November 4, 2020
Despite the so-called disdain for the associate justice, a Wall Street Journal opinion written after the 2020 election claimed that regardless of mainstream media reports, the black community has always supported Thomas’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“Justice Thomas was always more popular with average black people than the media led us to believe,” Jason L. Riley wrote in November 2020, as revealed by numerous polls taken after Thomas’ 1991 nomination.
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