The Difference of A Year: Some Links to Classicists Fighting the Good Fight Online

As Classicists we like to focus on the long view of history and to see ourselves in the deeper and stronger currents of time. But if we are honest, we know that we are equally, if not more, shaped by the eddies of our own day and its current events.

The increase in publicly pronounced and tolerated–if not also valorized–racism over the past few years has been shocking to many, although perhaps not to our friends and family who have faced bigotry their entire lives. The most recent year especially has seen a casualization of the rhetoric and political action of the far right in a way I once thought impossible.

Media outlets feed on the extreme voices because they don’t know how to report the news in the modern world. They have a vested financial interest in observing if not perpetuating the controversy. As a result, voices that spew ignorance and hate get more notice than they merit and they can do more harm in causing trauma to those who are marginalized already and, as part of their design, attracting the ignorant, insane or hopeless to their ideas.

When we started this blog, I never imagined I would spend so much time arguing with Nazis online or writing about politics. Last year, following events in Charlottesville, we did both: defending writing about Classics and politics, dismissing charges of political correctness as a tone policing act of the status quo, defending the humanities against conservative attacks, and, recently, arguing that the voices that reject literary theory are also those who align with conservative viewpoints.

Part of this has come from responding to current events, but it has also been inspired by hate speech directed our way. Last year, a week after the Charlottesville event, we received a comment accusing us of supporting “white genocide” or being a “Jewish supremacist”. The antisemitic harassment online has been fairly consistent since; as has a struggle over what it means to be a Classicist.

If we have responded haphazardly and sometimes reactively, we have also been inspired by dozens of other who are doing braver and more rigorous work to question the boundaries of our discipline, the voices within it, and its historical meanings. So, today, if you are feeling shocked or sick at media coverage, take a break and look at the critical work being done by the Classics Community online.

The work of these students, scholars and friends has been inspiring, edifying, and comforting over the past year.


Sarah Teets’ fine piece in Eidolon, Classical Slavery and Jeffersonian Racism

Rebecca Futo Kennedy’s talk on White Supremacy and Classics Scholarship or “On nationalisms Classical Antiquity, and Our Inhumanity” or On Genetics and Ancient Greeks, or on “Blood & Soil”

Pretty much everything Pharos and Curtis Dozier has done over the past year

John Bracey’s exploration of “Why Students of Color Don’t take Latin

Dan-El Padilla Peralta’s “The Colorblind Bard” discussion

Denise Eileen McCoskey’s post on Racist Use of DNA in work on Classical Antiquity

Brandeis Student Helen Wong’s reflections on being a student of color studying classics

Yung In Chae’s “White People Explain Classics to Us

Sarah Bond’s analysis of the Modern Romance with Sparta

The fine work of Sportula to raise microgrants for students pursuing Classical Studies

The work of Classics and Social Justice

Daniel Walden’s “Dismantling the West”

Podcasts from The Endless Knot and Scott Lepisto’s Itinera, which tells the stories of a diverse range of classicists

The public advocacy of Matthew Sears against hatred and ignorance

Mathura Umachandran’s analysis of Fragility in Classics (and, today is as good a day as any to read Robin DiAngelo’s article that defines and explains white fragility).

A little  outside of Classics, but still important, many posts from Everyday Orientalism

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9 thoughts on “The Difference of A Year: Some Links to Classicists Fighting the Good Fight Online

  1. You know what you should do to mess with the Nazis? Do a whole bunch of posts on Philo of Alexandria or other Hellenized Jews. Maybe an analysis of any of the books of the Maccabees is in order? My particular favorite is 3 Maccabees (the one about Ptolemy forcing Jews to worship Dionysos). Jewish contributions to Orphic literature could be looked at as well as some Greco-Jewish folklore (like how sons of Abraham supposedly helped Herakles fight Antaeus). And of course you could talk about how Greeks believed that Yahweh was either Zeus or Dionysos. Lots of stuff to talk about here.

  2. Do you seriously stand behind all of those articles and links you shared in that post? In a few of the links you posted, I found a number of non-scholarly, clearly ideologically driven, misguided, incoherent claims about genetics, psychometrics, statistics, and science in general. I’m surprised to see how quickly folks in the humanities – apparently including you – are so quick to toss out the scientific enterprise in the name of (what they think is) social justice. This is rather dissapointing. You mention Charlottesville – how do you feel about what happened in Charlottesville this year? Is Antifa out there fighting the good fight for “social justice” in your opinion?

    1. Two things: (1) I wrote the post to highlight what some people are doing. Humanity is imperfect, hence human action is imperfect. I don’t agree with every single thing linked to any more than I agree with every single thing I write myself. These issues are complex and we are always learning more to develop how we think about them.

      (2) To reject white supremacy and the conservative parties that are capitalizing upon it to rally a voting base is not the same as embracing every other group that also rejects white supremacy. The reflex to point to Antifa and complain that I am not complaining about them is rank “whataboutism”. it is a mere prevarication that tries to distract from the point that we are TOLERATING white supremacists and that media and political parties are making a profit from spreading their hate. This is as abominable as our President’s assertions last year that there were bad people on “both sides”. The both sides argument is nonsense designed to soften the horror of one side by amplifying and distorting the wrongs of another.

      1. Thank you for replying. I agree that these issues are unimaginably complex, and I am genuinely comforted by this first response.

        As for the second part, I apologize, I didn’t mean to imply that you should have also called foul on Antifa; I was simply asking if you think that the way Antifa is behaving in Charlottesville this year is defensible, and if it is considered part of “the good fight”(I am asking this with sincerity; I am not being attempting to be facetious). I find it troubling how many folks have been turning a blind eye to “no platforming” tactics on campuses, and defending (or denying outright) the violence committed by radical protesters.

        Of course, I would be a fool to defend Trump’s comment from last year, but do you deny that there were – and are – bad people (or equally bad, significantly active movements) on both sides? It seems to me that we know how to point out pernicious, white-supremacist identity politics on the right when we see it; unfortunately, it is much harder to tell where the “social justice left” (if that’s what we can call it) goes too far (I consider myself a member of the “social-justice left” that I am referring to).

        I agree that we should continue to criticize, challenge, and call attention to white-supremacists, Nazis, and bigots of all kinds. And, on the topic of criticizing Nazism, I am just as concerned about the communist catastrophes of the 20th century that were carried out in the name of equality and social justice. My general point here is that collectivist group-identity politics is the wrong strategy no matter what your political affiliation may be, and (in reference to my complaint about the links) the validity of particular scientific methods and findings does not just blow out the window when the findings don’t abide by a particular political ideology (not that I ascribe this claim to you; rather, this speaks to my contention with some of the content I found in the links you shared).

      2. Sorry, I was referring to the recent Unite the Right event when I mistakenly mentioned “the way Antifa is behaving in Charlottesville this year”.

  3. Your post makes me glad my blog isn’t that popular. I’m not sure how I would have responded if I’d copped that kind of response to my blog on Charlottesville.

    1. Yes, being heard can be a mixed blessing! But it has forced us to re-articulate some core views. And while it has been painful to discover how many of these groups are active online, it has been useful to figure out where and when to make a stand.

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