An Arizona State University professor and his family are being targeted by white supremacists and neo-Nazis over a controversial class he's teaching called U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness.
Lee Bebout, an associate professor of English at ASU, has faced fierce criticism after Fox News anchor Elizabeth Hasselbeck picked up on a recent report on the class from ASU student Lauren Clark, a correspondent for the right-wing website CampusReform.org.
Conservatives have lambasted Bebout for engaging in what they see as a kind of pointy-headed reverse racism, and for daring to suggest that the concept of "whiteness" -- as defined by a history of slavery, genocide, and Jim Crow -- may still play a role in American society.
The ASU course also has garnered the ire of white supremacists, who have inundated both the Tempe campus and the neighborhood where Bebout lives with handouts featuring his photo, labeling him "anti-white."
Since the controversy hit, Bebout, who is Caucasian, has been deluged with menacing messages via e-mail and phone.
The white supremacist National Youth Front, which has been trying to organize at ASU, has made Bebout the subject of a YouTube video entitled "Operation Bad Teacher," featuring an NYF member handing out anti-Bebout fliers on campus.The National Youth Front's "Operation Bad Teacher," where passing out handbills counts as right-wing "resistance."
"No longer will we have our identity destroyed and our people defamed," NYF's website stated regarding the operation. "This week, several of National Youth Front's members went to ASU to raise awareness that we will no longer tolerate this antiwhite agenda. Over four hundred fliers were delivered over several days to both Lee Bebout's neighborhood and ASU."
NYF is a creation of the racist American Freedom Party, formerly known as American Third Position, which has attempted selling a preppy form of fascism to mainstream America, with zero success so far.
Before glomming onto the Bebout controversy, the local National Youth Front posted anti-Muslim fliers around ASU's campus in late January, featuring a cartoon of Muhammad from the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The magazine was attacked at the beginning of the year by Islamic extremists, who massacred a dozen cartoonists and others in a raid on Hebdo's Paris offices.
A poorly worded manifesto riddled with misspellings accompanied the cartoon and called for a "declaration of war" against illegal immigration.
The action by the NYF garnered coverage from ASU's State Press, Salon.com, and other outlets.
State Press reporter Jessica Suerth followed up with a long interview with NYF's current national chairman, New Jersey anti-Semite Angelo John Gage.ASU PhD candidate Robert Poe debates a man videotaping Poe's teach-in; the video was posted by "RacePolitics" on YouTube
Meanwhile, Bebout continues to live and work under vague and sometimes not-so vague threats from neo-Nazis.
White supremacist sites such as The Daily Stormer and the long-running neo-Nazi message board Stormfront.org have posted a photo of Bebout's mixed race family, ganked from Bebout's Facebook page before he made it private.
Commenters on Stormfront have identified by name Bebout's wife, who is also an ASU professor, and have posted contact information for both teachers.
"I hope and pray he's picked off by a bunch of blacks because they see [him as] an easy target," writes Stormfront forum member "Europaeus" beneath the photo of Bebout's family.
Another commenter, "Beast 9," opines that, "[Bebout] is the problem with whiteness."
And Stormfront-er "Huginn ok Muninn" weighs in on Bebout's "whiteness" class, writing, "Every person who `teaches' this 'subject' is guilty of sedition against the folk body."
Such extremists have responded to the news of Bebout's course on critical race theory with almost preternatural obsessiveness.
Local neo-Nazi Harry Hughes, a member of the National Socialist Movement and former best-bud of mass-murderer and baby-killer J.T. Ready, published a rant about Bebout, stating the following:
"A number of us, all locals in the Phoenix area, are willing to offer manpower in whatever efforts you may be applying toward getting this `Whiteness' course either removed from ASU's catalog of courses or at least making a bold statement to the militant Left that their anti-White agenda will not go unchallenged."
Similarly, Jesse Curnow, a Valley imbecile affiliated with the neo-Nazi Nationalist Coalition, published an essay regarding Bebout's course, which Curnow also offered as an audio file, promising to burn CDs of it for distribution.
On February 3, The Daily Stormer posted the NYF's video about Bebout, calling the professor "a fat beta faggot" who wants to "destroy the white race."
One commenter to that post published what appears to be Bebout's home address.
When contacted for this article, Bebout declined to comment on the threats he and his family have received.
He did offer the following explanation for why he chose the controversial title for the class, which has 18 students.
When I chose the course title, I wanted to signal several different meanings that would come to shape class discussions.
Perhaps most significantly, "the problem of whiteness" draws attention to the often unacknowledged experiences of race. In the US today, talking about race is almost always synonymous with talking about people of color.
In this way, whiteness is rendered invisible and universal. Thus, this course asks students to consider how people from different backgrounds understand, tell stories about, or avoid discussing race.
Last week, Robert Poe, a PhD candidate at ASU's School of Social Transformation, held an informal teach-in on ASU's Cady Mall, which he called "The Problem of Whiteness 101" in order to address issues surrounding Bebout's class.
One of those stopping by to engage Poe in give-and-take was a bearded man filming the event with his iPhone.
The man's video was later posted to YouTube under the handle "RacePolitics," with the title, "Problem of Whiteness? Nationalists debate Antifa on ASU Campus," antifa being slang for "anti-fascists."
The video has since made the rounds on various extremist websites.
Someone present at the event sent me photos of the bearded man who shot the "RacePolitics" video. I showed these to Poe, and he confirmed they were of the individual he had been debating at the teach-in.
The man challenged Poe about the "whiteness" course: asking if there was a "problem with blackness," wondering if Poe had read The Bell Curve (a controversial book on race and IQ), and contending that racial "predisposition" might be an explanation for racial inequality.
"RacePolitics" also posted a shorter version of the conversation, accusing Poe of advocating "violence on campus."
Actually, Poe's comments were more nuanced. His interlocutor asked Poe if he would advocate violence against racists.
Poe replied: "I advocate violence against racists who choose to politically mobilize."
When I spoke with him for this piece, Poe explained to me that he felt there was plenty of historical precedent for that statement, specifically, "the U.S. military's intervention in WWII against the Nazis."
Poe told me that he since has been questioned about the teach-in by ASU staff, in response to complaints about the video, now posted both to Stormfront.org and to The Daily Stormer.
He believes the ASU administration is copping a neutral line, instead of vigorously defending its faculty.
"I don't think [ASU's] response has been adequate at all," Poe told me. "If anything, they are being bullied by white nationalists and neo-Nazis because those are the people who are controlling the conversation right now."
Poe says he's been getting threats since the video of the teach-in went up.
Which is not surprising. Check out the following comment from "eTemplarHunter," one of many in this vein, from an article on Poe's teach-in at the site conservative-headlines.com:
step one: enroll in ASU.
step two: enroll in one of poe's classes
step three: attend class with a pen sharpened like a shiv
step four: lodge the fucking pen in this cunts throat and let the blood funnel out on the floor
step five: carve a fucking swastika in his chest as he lays dying on the floor in a growing pool of his own blood
step six: toss body out of the window as campus security arrives
step seven: plead insanity
Then there's this slightly more subtle threat from "kaffer slicer":
"Looks as if he has bitten plenty of pillows in his day... don't think he'd much care for curbs."
"Curbs" is a reference to a brutal form of assault, known as "curbing" or "curb stomp," which you may remember from the film American History X.
During a "curb stomp," the victim is forced to "bite" a concrete curb, as the back of their head is stomped in.
Neither ASU, nor the ASU campus police have returned my calls for comment regarding threats to ASU faculty.
Interestingly, there is a Phoenix fan of the National Youth Front online who bears a striking resemblance to the individual who was filming his interaction with Poe on ASU's campus.
He identifies himself on his Facebook page as "John Hess." On FB, he has reposted NYF's anti-Muslim fliers, and "liked" the NYF, as well as other indicators of where his sympathies lie.
Based on screenshots from Hess' site that I sent Poe, the PhD candidate believes this is the same man with whom he was speaking during the teach-in.
When I sent a message to Hess on FB, asking to speak with him about the video and his involvement with the National Youth Front, he made his FB page private.
Needless to say, a white supremacist group's targeting of a controversial professor and his family should be of concern to all of us.
I hope ASU is taking the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of its faculty and its students.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Because as we know from too much experience, it only takes one nut to make a tragedy that we all will regret.
Got a tip for The Bastard? Send it to: Stephen Lemons.