Vanderbilt Professor Slammed for Backing Film That Calls Racism a Myth

Janell Ross, The Tennessean (Nashville), October 17, 2009

An organization that tracks hate-group activity in the U.S. is accusing Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain (http://www.carolmswain.com/), a black scholar known for her conservative stances on race and immigration, of being an apologist for white supremacists.

The incident started last week when the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center posted a blog item critiquing the documentary A Conversation About Race, mentioning that positive comments by Swain lent the film an air of legitimacy.

Swain fired back, making her case against the advocacy group in a blog submitted to the news site The Huffington Post and in a string of messages she sent to followers on her Twitter account.

“There aren’t enough new hate groups 2 keep the SPLC busy, so they target individuals & conservative organizations 2 raise money,” Swain wrote in a Twitter update Thursday.

{snip}

Swain defends praise

Swain is quoted as saying the film is, “Outstanding . . . Meticulously done . . . I highly recommend this film.” Bodeker lists the blurb as the first one on the film’s Web site.

“Why is her review valuable? Why is it important? Because she is an African-American woman,” Bodeker said in an interview. “A member of the Vanderbilt University faculty and the National Council on Humanities and she has a Ph.D.–you better believe I put her quote on the DVD box, on the poster. That’s how this is done. You try to attract attention.”

For her part, Swain contends that the documentary is a valuable tool that could be used in classrooms to initiate a conversation on race that includes the perspective of what may be a growing number of white people.

“I just think that if we do not discuss these things . . . you are creating the conditions for ethnic violence and unrest,” Swain said.

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