A group of 28 Black professors at the University of Toronto signed a letter released to the press this week condemning the actions of Michael Marrus, the former Senior Fellow at Massey College who resigned last Monday after making a racist remark towards a Black Junior Fellow at the college.
“Such racist remarks and jokes – in this specific case one that directly referenced brutal histories of slavery and anti-black violence – are all-too commonplace and gain resonance from the fact that they are only one dimension of the systemic racism that Black people, people of color and indigenous people often have to negotiate on a regular basis,” the letter reads.
In an interview with The Varsity, UTM Women and Gender Studies professor and signee Beverly Bain said the letter was sent to a number of national and local media outlets.
“We felt that the second letter was critical because the reports that were actually in The Globe and Mail and the National Post seemed to actually portray Marrus as a victim, and portray the issue as that which is about political correctness,” said Bain.
An article in The Globe and Mail detailed an exchange between Marrus and the publication, where Marrus expressed disappointment that students did not accept his apology, asking “Where was the due process, where was the effort to hear me out?”
Neither Marrus nor Massey College responded to The Varsity’s requests for comment.
Bain opined that mainstream news coverage of the incident did not understand the context in which the remark took place. She said that by perpetuating a narrative “around hierarchies, around heteropatriarchy, around whiteness, around maleness” at the university, the connection between “Master” and “slave” was more easily made.
“This could not have come about if that narrative and that context was not already existing in this space. So while Marrus’ comment was horrendous, it’s also an indictment of the space that continues to perpetuate a certain kind, replicate a certain kind of, I would say, anti-Blackness, racist, and colonial replication of how you understand certain bodies in those spaces.”
The letter states that while the group of Black professors have committed themselves to “free intellectual inquiry and debate,” they are equally committed to mutual respect and “an adequate sense of history.”
The Black faculty members also praised the courage of Junior Fellows at Massey College and reiterated their support for the demands made by the Junior Fellows.
The letter follows another open letter signed by Massey College faculty and staff on September 27, written to Head of College Hugh Segal, calling for college-wide reform and punitive measures against Marrus.