White Nationalists Disrupt Professor's Talk

Vanderbilt scholar was talking about his new book, Dying of Whiteness.

April 29, 2019
 

Many professors who do research or teach courses on white people have been subject to criticism that includes threatening emails and distortions of their work, typically from those on the far right.

On Saturday, a group of white nationalists went a step beyond that and disrupted a talk being given in a Washington bookstore by a Vanderbilt University professor. The small group of white men did not name any group with which they are affiliated but said that they were speaking for the white working class and that they were "identitarians." The men shouted, "This land is our land," among other things. After a bit, they left.

Some attendees made video of the disruption, showing audience members booing throughout the disruption.

The professor who was giving the talk was Jonathan M. Metzl, the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University and director of its Center for Medicine, Health and Society.

His new book, which was the subject of his talk, is Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland (Basic Books).

The talk was at Politics and Prose, a Washington bookstore known for hosting talks by authors of books in the policy realm.

The central argument of the book is that white Americans attracted to the policies of President Trump are acting in ways that increase the chances that they will die.

The publisher describes the book this way: "Physician Jonathan M. Metzl’s quest to understand the health implications of 'backlash governance' leads him across America’s heartland. Interviewing a range of everyday Americans, he examines how racial resentment has fueled pro-gun laws in Missouri, resistance to the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee and cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. And he shows these policies’ costs: increasing deaths by gun suicide, falling life expectancies and rising dropout rates. White Americans, Metzl argues, must reject the racial hierarchies that promise to aid them but in fact lead our nation to demise."

Metzl told The Washington Post that the disruption started as he was talking about how a man in the audience had helped his father and grandfather escape from the Nazis in Austria. “I was saying how much stronger America is when we think about our responsibility to people in need. At that point, the Nazis walked into the talk,” Metzl said. “It was very symbolic for me. In case anybody’s wondering what’s happening right now, they’re illustrating my point.”

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