A group of students at a predominantly white public university in Georgia burned the book of a Latina author who had delivered a lecture on campus after some attendees accused her of “dissing white people.”
Jennine Capó Crucet, a New York Times contributor and associate professor at the University of Nebraska, spoke about her novel Make Your Home Among Strangers at Georgia Southern University on Wednesday night. The award-winning book, published in 2015, tells the story of a Cuban American girl from Miami who gets accepted to a prestigious college in New York and struggles to fit into the privileged, predominantly white environment.
The book was required reading for some of Georgia Southern’s First-Year Experience classes, according to the university.
On Wednesday evening, the school hosted Crucet, who spoke to the entire first-year class at the performing arts center. When she opened the floor to the audience for questions, some attendees peppered her for criticizing white people, according to the George-Anne, the university’s newspaper.
“I noticed that you made a lot of generalizations about the majority of white people being privileged,” one student said to the author, according to the paper. “What makes you believe that it’s okay to come to a college campus, like this, when we are supposed to be promoting diversity on this campus, which is what we’re taught. I don’t understand what the purpose of this was.”
Responding to the student, Crucet said that she was invited to speak at the university and discussed white privilege because “it’s a real thing that you are actually benefiting from right now in even asking this question,” according to the George-Anne.
Her answer elicited more questions about race from the audience.
BuzzFeed News spoke with six first-year students, five women and one man, who attended the lecture, all of whom asked not to be named. The students were required to attend the lecture, along with hundreds of their classmates, and said that Crucet attacked white people “for an hour” and assumed that the entire audience was privileged.
Later that night, a group of students gathered on campus and burned her book, according to statements from the university and videos posted on Twitter. Some even gathered outside her hotel, the school’s department of Writing and Linguistics said on Facebook, writing that it is “dismayed and disappointed by the uproar against” the author.
“Last night’s discussion with the author devolved into accusations of her demonstrating racism against white people,” Dr. Russell Willerton, the department chair, said in a statement. “Some students burned copies of Crucet’s book and even gathered outside her hotel. We assert that destructive and threatening acts do not reflect the values of Georgia Southern University.”
A student in the class — who asked that her name not be used for safety reasons — was walking outside of the Eagle Village dorm complex when she said she saw a group of students burning something.
“I thought it was s’mores at first,” the first-year student told BuzzFeed News. “So when my friends and I went to see what it was, we saw the students yelling and laughing and throwing the books in the fire.”