When I started this blog 12 years ago, I never imagined that one day I would be writing about the intersection of white evangelicalism, Donald Trump, a major pandemic, and blackface.
Earlier today, I published a piece at Religion News Service on court evangelical Eric Metaxas’s use of blackface. Now Jerry Falwell Jr, the president of Liberty University and the guy who recently appointed Metaxas as a fellow at his Christian Right “think tank” the Falkirk Center, is tweeting about blackface.
Yesterday, Falwell Jr. tweeted:
I was adamantly opposed to the mandate from @GovernorVA requiring citizens to wear face masks until I decided to design my own. If I am ordered to wear a mask, I will reluctantly comply, but only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!#VEXIT#EndLockdownNow pic.twitter.com/twu7r4rWhd
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) May 27, 2020
Here is Zack Linly at The Root:
First of all: Can we just acknowledge that the conservative resistance to wearing face masks makes no sense? This isn’t like the push to reopen the economy because, for all of that campaign’s faults, it’s at least about getting people back to work. The anti-face mask thing, on the other hand, just seems like arbitrary defiance for the sake of defiance. It’s just odd that all of these Republican officials, including y’all’s president, seem so hellbent on dying on that particular hill. (Editor’s note: Perhaps literally. COVID-19 is not a game.)
Falwell—the man who once had arrest warrants issued for journalists because they were covering his widely criticized decision to reopen Liberty U’s campus despite the dangers of the COVID-19 outbreak—took things a step further by randomly invoking racism to make his point.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Northam caught black people’s collective side-eye last year when a photo from Eastern Virginia Medical School’s 1984 yearbook was unearthed, showing him in blackface next to someone in KKK attire. Northam initially apologized for the photo then later denied it was him in the photo at all. This was certainly a drag-worthy offense, but Falwell is still way out of his lane here.
On its face (pun intended), Falwell’s tweet just makes it seem like he’s planning to wear a mask with a Klan member and a white guy in blackface on it. It just looks like him being racist as hell, which is probably why he needed to clarify things in a separate tweet.
“Just so folks outside Virginia unfamiliar with the pic on the mask understand: it is from the personal page of the medical school yearbook of @GovernorVA,” he tweeted. “Just a way to shine a spotlight on the fact that Democrats are and always have been the real racists in this country.”
Yes, this is another example of the fact that not all Christian colleges are the same.
And now at least one African-American Liberty University professor has resigned.
Here is his letter of resignation, published on his Facebook page:
I’m a Black tenured associate professor at Ithaca College and a pastor. My research expertise and scholarship in rhetoric, race and religion and also rhetorical theology have opened up other opportunities for me to speak/teach at other institutions where critical conversations about race, racism and white supremacy are needed the most.
In late 2018, I was presented with a unique opportunity to do so at the graduate level as an instructor for an Intercultural Communication class at Liberty University online.
A bit uneasy, yet feeling compelled to do so, I agreed to bring my expertise to bear in an online environment in fall 2019.
I did so not that I align myself politically with this institution or its leadership (because I don’t), but because I know that there are individuals who attend Liberty who need to hear diverse voices like mine and the message I carry. I was surprised to find graduate students open to new ideas and ways of understanding about such critical issues.
However, yesterday after a friend (who is a LU alumnus) forwarded me photos of two racists tweets from LU President Jerry Falwell, I resigned immediately!!!!!
My moral compass and integrity would not allow me have any further relationship with that institution for any reason!
I was brought into LU to generate the kind of dialogue that challenges the ideas, narratives and ideologies that underlie the very images Falwell intentionally used to make a political statement to the Governor of Virginia. Falwell did so at the expense of Black people and Black pain. This is abhorrent, evil and sickening! This does not reflect the God of the Bible!
I have come to meet some really bright students at Liberty (and who are there for many different reasons) who have to endure this type of environment. My heart goes out to them.
This is another reminder to me that some folks really don’t want to change. And although I was able to impact a few, the price to continue to do so is too high! My resignation letter is below!
Yet another chapter in the history of the world’s second largest Christian university.
Yet another chapter in the story of white conservative American evangelicalism in the age of Trump.