Finals week, angry grad students, and vaguely racist comments do not a pretty picture make.

According to an anonymous tipster, Russell BRickford, a TA for Barnard’s American Civilization Since the Civil War class, objected to a statement written by one student in the course’s final exam yesterday. And so e-mailed the entire class about it. Full e-mail after the jump.

—————————– Original Message —————————
Subject: HIST X1402.001
Date: Wed, May 10, 2006 12:15 pm
To: ——

Dear beloved,

One of my students wrote the following statement in an essay on her final
exam yesterday: “This austerity is at the root of Protestantism in America, but
is considered quite different from the sensuality and decadence of black

Now, some of my best friends are black. Some of them show signs of sensuality. Others, not so much. Some are decadent. Some ain’t. As a matter of fact, I too am black. And I’d like to think that from time to time, I can be pretty darn sensual myself. What’s more, I must confess that, on occasion, and twice in recent memory, I have been as decadent as my graduate student stipend would allow.

But I feel compelled to gently disabuse you good white folks of the notion that we Culluds are, by and large, any more sensual or decadent than say, your average Korean. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love for black folk to be as sensual and decadent as you all seem to believe that we are. I think back to all those agonizing, wretched nights in high school and college spent trying to cajole some sista to hook up with me. If only those guileful creatures had known just how naturally sensual they were supposed to be, perhaps I would have scored once in a while. Alas, it was not to be. Indeed, in my short experience as a Negro (31 years this September) I have encountered not a few disturbingly un-sensual and un-decadent people of African descent. Perhaps they did not get the memo. Or perhaps they and their ancestors were too busy to allow their true “sensualdecadence” (better to identify these innate traits in one convenient word, no?) to shine through. Perhaps the forebears of the oddly repressed blacks I have known and loved were too occupied wading through mosquito-infested rice fields from dawn to dusk to indulge in the frenzied orgies that should have come so naturally. Perhaps they got so distracted picking tobacco and cotton, or harvesting indigo or sugar, that their sensualdecadence simply faded away. Perhaps stoking coal in blazing foundries, hauling backbreaking loads on and off the docks, or scouring the homes, clothes and children of good, industrious white folks dulled their prediliction for bodily pleasure. Perhaps the lynchings dampened their appetite. Perhaps the sharecropping put them out of the mood. Perhaps “last hired and first fired” turned them off. Perhaps they had their hands full with the KKK, Jim Crow, redlining, deindustrialization, COINTELPRO, police brutality and the prison industrial complex. Perhaps they were so caught up fighting the imperialist, racist wars you hardworking Anglos seem to start every now and then that they had to abandon their true, jolly, lascivious selves. Or perhaps, just perhaps, black folk really ain’t as sensualdecadent as
you good white folks have been claiming for the last 400 years.

I’m not saying we’re exactly the same as you people. God no. We season our food better. And we look better in bright colors. But perhaps we’re FUNDAMENTALLY the same–I mean, like, biologically. What I’m saying is, perhaps our humanity is as messed up as yours. Perhaps we’re as greedy. Perhaps we’re as stupid, cruel and ugly. If that is indeed the case, and I’m afraid that it may well be, then the
awful fact that we must face together is that we’re both utterly, hopelessly repressed.

Now, I’m willing to do my part to urge my people toward greater sensuality. I genuinely believe that a closer communion with our senses would do us a lot of good. But in return, I want you all to stop fantasizing about our alleged freedom from discipline and restraint. Okay? Do that for me and I’ll teach you how to cook chicken.