New Paltz Professor Apologizes for Comments on Rap

July 19, 2018

Gerald Benjamin, distinguished professor of political science at the State University of New York at New Paltz, apologized Wednesday for comments he made about a local congressional race in an interview with The New York Times. In the interview, Benjamin suggested that Democratic candidate Antonio Delgado’s past as a rapper would hurt him in terms of votes. “Is a guy who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyle and values?” Benjamin was quoted as saying. “People like us, people in rural New York, we are not people who respond to this part of American culture.”

Delgado, who is black, told the Times that ongoing criticism of his music was an attempt to “otherize” him, and many readers condemned Benjamin’s comments as racist. Donald P. Christian, New Paltz’s president, and Tanhena Pacheco Dunn, the university’s chief diversity officer, criticized Benjamin’s comments in an all-campus email after the article appeared online Tuesday, saying, “We are disappointed that such language would come from a campus leader and ambassador of the college and reaffirm that the quotes do not reflect our institutional values of inclusivity and respect.” The expectation of “any member of this community is that they be mindful of the impact of their speech on others and understand that the consequences of that speech may have unintended and long-lasting negative effects,” they said.

Benjamin said in a separate statement that he has a “deep attachment to the school and the diverse community we have built here” and that he was “very sorry for any unintended distress caused by my remarks.” Acknowledging that his comments had been interpreted as racist, Benjamin added, “I had no racist intent but understand the impact of those remarks, and regret having made them.”

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