[Media prompt] Professor wants white male colleagues to quit jobs for racial equality.
In July, I attended a conference in New Zealand. Having stayed for another two months to continue my collaborative research with Professor Martin, the chaos gripping the campus when I returned was completely unexpected. When I look back on it now, I realise I must have been walking around in a dream not to notice the signs of impending upheaval. But at the time, I could no more comprehend the crowds of masked belligerents swarming the university grounds than a fish comprehends the water in which he swims.
I arrived back at the university on the last day of September, the birthdate, coincidentally, of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Revered Leader of the intersectional madness starting to swirl around us. The first thing I noticed as I parked my car were enormous black letters spelling out KILL WHITEY on the southern wall of the Humanities building. I stood for a moment, as though rooted to the ground, staring at the words. The meaning was unambiguous, but even then I had no more than a vague feeling of uneasiness about what awaited me.
When I reached the Department of Mathematics, in which I had been employed for almost fifteen years, the entrance was blocked by hundreds of people, many of whom were clearly not students. There were loud and unified chants for justice and death, and I was able to ascend a small set of steps of service bay affording me a view of the object of their wrath unnoticed. Their shrill cries echoed in the stone courtyard. I did not notice it at first, for the scene swam before my eyes like an apparition in the mist, but the statue of Euclid, a gift from one of most famous alumni more than a century ago, lay smashed on the ground. Daubed in red, one word on each of the shattered segments, was WHITE MEN MUST DIE.
As my mind reeled, the screams and jeers stopped. There had been, to my ears at least, no obvious direction to do so. I scanned the crowd, fearful that I was now the focus of their taunts and fury. But nobody appeared to have noticed me. All eyes were on the door beyond the courtyard, which I could not see from my vantage point. For about a minute, time stood frozen. It were as if the participants of this ghoulish festival held their collective breaths on command, waiting for Professor White to emerge, a large placard hung by thin wire around his neck, before erupting into a loud cheer.
Two postgraduate students, one of which was a PhD candidate under my supervision, held Professor White’s arms behind his body. He bent forward from the weight of the placard, which I now recognised as a heavy plank of plywood and not the cardboard I had at first assumed. The students pushed him forward, until he stood in the Euclidean rubble, close enough to the mob so that spittle from its front most shock troops sprayed onto his downcast face. On the placard around his neck was written, “LAST WHITE STANDING.”
This jarred me back into some semblance of rational thought, and I leapt from the service dock. The likelihood of making it back to my car unmolested was slim, and it occurred to me that my remaining unharmed thus far was most likely due to my naivety; my newfound scent of fear would now surely attract the multitude like vultures to a corpse. I crouched at the corner of the building, evaluating a number of possibilities as the screams for racial equality rang in my ears.