Students outraged over film professor’s racially insensitive remarks

by Catlan Nguyen, Social Media Editor

On April 13, San Diego State students took to social media to express their outrage over racially insensitive remarks made by film professor Robert Jordan towards Black people. 

A 50-second video clip of an hour-long pre-recorded lecture for a TFM 160: Introduction to Cinema class showed Jordan discussing some racial assumptions students might encounter in films.

 

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“I might have an assumption that Black people are just not as intelligent as white people,” Jordan said in the lecture video. “Ooh, I can hear already all the people getting riled up, right? I could believe that. You know, that’s just the way I was raised and that’s just the way my values are. It doesn’t mean I’m going to come and lynch you. It doesn’t mean I’m going to attack you. It might mean I won’t hire you, but it’s the way I think.”

The original tweet was posted by user @jgainesjr_ and it gained almost 500 likes, 30 replies and over 300 retweets within a day. The Instagram video also has more than 19,000 views and over 400 comments.

SDSU released a statement on Twitter addressing the video and defending Jordan. 

“Professor Jordan insisted that the clip in no way represents his personal views or opinions,” the university’s statement said. “SDSU does not tolerate acts of marginalization, racism and hatred based on personal background, identity or skin color.”

When asked whether an investigation would take place, the university said no further information was available. 

The university’s statement also goes on to explain how the clip was from an hour-long lecture highlighting examples of how racism and discrimination were portrayed in films and television during racial events in history such as the Holocaust. The goal of the lecture was to help students understand the plights and continued struggles of others, the statement said.

Students in Jordan’s TFM 160: Introduction to Cinema class said these racist and controversial statements hit harder in the context of the ongoing Derick Chauvin trial and shooting of Duante Wright in Minneapolis.

“I’m here trying to convince people every day that my life is valuable and it’s just angering,”  business first-year Rhyan Pitts said. “This is probably not the first racist incident (at SDSU), this is just the first one that’s getting attention.”

Pitts is a student in Jordan’s Introduction to Cinema class and is friends with the student who recorded the lecture. She said how, as a Black student, she’s faced other acts of racism at SDSU, including a group of men in a pickup truck making monkey and dog noises to her as she crossed a street near South Campus Plaza.

Students in the same Introduction to Cinema class and Jordan’s other TFM courses said he’s made similar off-hand remarks throughout this semester. 

“He’s definitely made comments about race and politics multiple times throughout this semester,” TFM production third-year Blake Howard said. “Further on in the semester, it’s been less as a joke and he’s been using them more as examples. It’s hard to differentiate what’s hypothetical in this class and what he actually believes.”

Jordan sent out an announcement on Canvas the night the video was published titled “I’m viral.” The announcement addressed the controversy his statements caused. 

“As this video excerpt begins, you can even hear me say that some of these beliefs are correct and ‘some are total BS’,’” Jordan said in part of the announcement. “Did I personally say that this was my opinion or that I support such ideas? Of course not. Despite my efforts to carefully introduce a controversial, but relevant topics and how they are related to film theory, students are now sharing that 50 second sound bite calling me a racist b*stard.”

Some students, like Afrikan Student Union President Kennedy Boyd, are calling for the university to take disciplinary action against Jordan. The SDSU College Chapter of the NAACP posted a statement on Instagram calling on SDSU President Adela de la Torre to investigate the incident and remove Jordan. 

Boyd said members of the Black community at SDSU also said the university should have reached out to each Black student organization before putting out a statement. 

“A lot of students feel helpless, not because of themselves but in terms of the university,” Boyd said. “The university, to the Black community, seemed to protect the professor, protect their image and de-escalate and defuse the situation before anything else.”

Boyd said the Black community at SDSU is calling for more disciplinary actions to be put in place against racist comments and acts made by professors and faculty.

“If you’re educating and enriching the youth, why is the youth not your priority?” Boyd said. “We don’t want performative action, we want genuine action. We want change.”

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