White is wrong at Baruch College, where minority faculty members in one department demanded Caucasian counterparts undergo “white fragility” training to be “better people,” according to a lawsuit filed against CUNY by an angry white professor.
The demands were made by the Faculty of Color Caucus, a group of educators in the school’s Sociology and Anthropology Department, who accused white colleagues of racism “for no other reason than their skin color,” the professor claims in court papers.
The group presented a report last spring which “levied outlandish accusations at white faculty in general, all while citing no specifics whatsoever about any discrimination nor any conduct by any department faculty or against any faculty,” Robin Root charges in the legal filing against the City University of New York, which oversees Baruch.
Belittled and demeaned by the allegations, Root claims she was singled out during a meeting without warning, and was ignored by administrators when she tried to file a formal discrimination complaint.
“It was pretty heartbreaking,” Root told The Post.
The group demanded white educators attend training without the Caucus members present; that they read and discuss Robin Di Angelo’s book, “White Fragility;” and “learn to reflect on how ‘white normativity’ plays out in the department,” according to the complaint. No formal training has been held.
“I thought we were operating as a team here, to address these issues,” said Root, who was out on sabbatical when the caucus made its move. “Now we’re marking out who is white, and who is not white, and you’ve decided without knowing anything about me, without knowing about my background, that I am only white … At a minimum I just wanted to have some dialogue about this, because it is complex and sensitive.”
One caucus member declined to even discuss discrimination with white co-workers, allegedly because “all of you behave and practice at different levels of whiteness,” according to the Manhattan Supreme Court litigation.
Root, 53, says she’s the one who pointed out Di Angelo’s book to colleagues months earlier. “I have no objection to reading a book that I actually recommended the department read,” she said.
Root says in the litigation she’s spent her academic career “studying and examining complex issues of race and color,” and helped hire and promote minority faculty in her department.
When she complained of discrimination and a hostile work environment, Baruch’s chief diversity officer also told her to read Di Angelo’s book, and another dean refused to meet with her, Root said.
Root claims administrators later agreed she’d “been mistreated” but told her she should withdraw the gripe anyway to keep the school from looking bad.
A member of the Faculty of Color Caucus, which is comprised of three non-white members of the 11-member department, declined comment. CUNY declined comment on the litigation.
A co-worker who left the caucus allegedly told Root the group was targeting her in a bid to “goad” the professor into feeling “marginalized in the same way they felt they had been by the White community” even though no one had directly accused Root of wrongdoing.
She seeks unspecified damages and for the court to find CUNY liable for discrimination and retaliation against her.