Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Tommy Curry: An Aggie Palpatine

A 2007 paper in which the radical philosopher theorizes killing whites as acts of 'liberation'

You’ll recall my initial posting about Tommy Curry, a philosopher at Texas A&M, and how he spoke about the contexts in which it is permissible to kill or otherwise do violence to white people. A number of you accused me of distorting his words. I rejected that characterization here, and do reject it, because quite clearly Curry framed his discussion as what black people can learn today from violence used against white people. That is, his was not merely a theoretical discussion about historical facts. He says, near the 3:00 mark, that “black people were in a world very much like ours today” — and then accuses whites of engaging in vigilantism. More:

“When we have this conversation about violence or killing white people it has to be looked at in the context of a historical turn, and the fact that we’ve had no one address, like, how relevant and how solidified this kind of tradition is for black people saying, “look in order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people may have to die,” I’ve just been immensely disappointed, because what we look at week after week is national catastrophe after catastrophe where black people, black children, are still dying…”

If you try hard, you can convince yourself that the radical Curry is not calling for a discussion about using violence against whites today. A number of Aggie faculty members and students have voiced public support for Curry. And an A&M publication has published Curry’s feeble defense of his remarks, claiming that they were merely part of a historical analysis. The piece includes this from a supporter:

Texas A&M Sociology professor Joe Feagin, who is considered an expert in race theory, said that Curry was referencing that people of all races have the right to self defense.

“As for Professor Curry’s comments about the current threats of white violence that Black Americans still face, he is clearly arguing that they have the right to self-defense against white violence,” Feagin said. “That is a value, as they say, as ‘American as apple pie.’ That is, self-defense is normal.”

Feagin also said that he finds it worrisome that The American Conservative is being taken as serious source, and reiterated that Curry is regarded as an expert in his field.

“In this case, I also find it highly problematical that a publication on a far-right website set up by and for white nationalists and white supremacists is cited as a major source on this matter and taken seriously, while leading social science scholars who research and know what they are talking about on US racism are rarely or never consulted,” Feagin said.

Oh, what would we do without experts in race theory? “A far-right website set up by and for white nationalists and white supremacists”? I’m just going to let that accusation stand unrebutted as an example of how extreme Joe Feagin’s perspective is. But I hope no one is standing near him, because I get the feeling he might spontaneously combust.

I wonder what Smokin’ Joe is going to say about this below? Some folks at A&M have unearthed a separate recording of Dr. Curry advocating violence against conservatives at the university. Be advised: Curry curses in this short clip, so it’s Not Safe For Work:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLyly1uZ7ro]

The transcript:

“Now we ask ourselves a very deep question: Well, what the f*** do we do? Right? Jackson argued that the task of a revolutionary is to create revolution, and this doesn’t simply mean that we create the thoughts that sound cool in classrooms, that sound cool next to the already degradated [sic] minds of the conservatives at Texas A&M, we already know that’s bull****. You cannot have progress here without violence and upheaval because it’s struggle for liberation for the other.”

You cannot have progress here without violence and upheaval. If that is not incitement to violence on campus, what is? And it is of a piece with Curry’s 2012 remarks, in which he proposed to apply the lessons of history to contemporary America. He says clearly in this second clip that he wants to quit talking about revolution and rather create it.

This is not new discourse for Prof. Tommy Curry of Texas A&M’s philosophy department. Here are excerpts from a 2007 paper he published in the journal Radical Philosophy, and uploaded to Academia.edu, titled, “Please Don’t Make Me Touch ‘Em: Towards a Critical Race Fanonianism as a Possible Justification for Violence against Whiteness”. I encourage you to get an Academia.edu account (it’s free) and read the entire curry paper. It is a justification for committing violence against white people for the sake of liberating black people. Excerpts:

In an attempt to move Black political theory in this direction, this essay explores the use of violence as a solution to the permanent institutionalization and white cultural reification of anti-Black racism. In African American political thought, integration and the hopes of non-violent progress has become the unquestioned foundation of Black political and legal theory. This author believes that the dogmatic allegiance to non-violence is a price that African descended people in America can no longer afford to pay. Historically, the use of violence has been a serious option in the liberation of African people from the cultural tyranny of whiteness, and should again be investigated as a plausible and in some sense necessary political option. Violence as a liberatory act both incorporates the use of violence as merely a means of self-defense, while going beyond it. I am not speaking of violent acts that are limited to specific incidences of “attacks” by the KKK or racist police, nor am I trying to justify the indiscriminate killing of white individuals. I am speaking of violence as an earnest attempt to respond to the murder of African descended people at the hands of white institutions, and the materialization of the discontent African descended people carry with them daily against the set of societal norms that maintain that white lives are more valuable than Black lives. Through an adoption of the racial realist lens, I am interested in knowing if a case can be made that violence against whites is the only solution to anti-Black racism.

Curry is playing a fairly clumsy rhetorical game here. He frames his inquiry as a “just asking questions” thing, but the entire paper is an attempt to say yes, anti-white violence is just and necessary.

More Curry:

This project exists in a different vein; the justifications for violence, as they are articulated in this work, are legitimate to the extent that people of African descent experience oppression and deem it intolerable. Simply stated, the aim of this article is not to persuade whites of the reality of anti-Black racism, rather this article aims to introduce the conversation of violence as a possible alternative to the failed integrationist project of the 1960s to Black scholars, not as a call to arms, but as an open ended political question.

No, no, Tommy Curry is not saying that black Americans should turn to violence to achieve their ends. He’s just saying we should talk about it, right? And then he talks about it at great length. The entire paper is one long justification for exactly the kind of violence he attempts to say is merely theoretical. More:

The framing of Black suffering as the starting point of white conversations dealing with race is in fundamental opposition to the interests of African descended people in America; it is no longer acceptable to philosophically converse and politically pontificate legal strategies that are built on the possibility of whites abandoning white privilege, when it is the passivity and acceptance of Black deaths that give these conversations with whites moral suasion. In other words, the suffering of Black people can no longer be the moral impetus behind attempts to persuade whites to act right; the deaths of Black people should not serve as an ethical exercise through which whites choose the signifcance of and their culpability in Black genocide.

Genocide. What the Nazis did to the Jews, whites are doing to blacks today, says Tommy Curry. America is no better than Nazi Germany. If you were a Jew in Nazi Germany and had access to arms, wouldn’t you kill Nazis? Wouldn’t you be justified in doing so?

More Tommy Curry:

As it stands now, whites, as a group, have not given African descended people in America any reason to believe they are interested or serious about mass social political change, and as such we (African descended people in America) should not construct a false hope in their intangible good intentions. African descended people are dying in America without majoritarian remorse or regard in their public executions. African descended people in America are confronted with not only the reality of anti-black discrimination, but also the intentional incarceration and systemic genocidal elimination of our people.

White Nazis, in other words. They’re everywhere. Never mind that the overwhelming number of black people in America who die violent deaths are murdered by other black people: 90 percent. Do not let reason intrude upon your purifying hatred.

More Curry:

Once we (as African descended people) come to grips with the endemic nature of American racism, our theories about race should reflect a philosophically rigorous position that encounters American racism as sempiternal, while seeking true liberation from the white social context, the ideology of hopeful co-existence, and a forced engagement with the whites that perpetuate the ills of anti-Black racism. “Liberation is the total destruction of the colonial system,” and the theories of liberation that result from the acknowledgement of reality, must demand the same practical rigor.

Understand what he’s saying here: Curry says it’s hopeless for whites and blacks so live together in peace, and he doesn’t think black people should have to encounter each other. He wants to blow up the system. More:

Derrick Bell’s insight is prophetic. “The American dogma of automatic progress fails for those who have been marginalized.” American society is simply not structured to provide racial equality; “racial equality is, in fact, not a realistic goal,” it is quite simply a dilapidated catch phrase of an aging Black demographic deluded by the hope of white rationality, Christian faith, and the social promises of American democracy.

No reason. No faith. No forgiveness and reconciliation, not even through the church. No democracy. It’s all a sham,, says Tommy Curry.


According to Paul Butler, “the issue is not whether people will suffer and die. African Americans suffer and die now, because of race based punishment. The issues, then, are whether or how that discrimination should end, and whether it matters if others die, in the service to end discrimination.” However, the issue is precisely over who dies. Butler claims that violence needs to be proportionate to the kind of discrimination committed and should not harm innocent people or what he refers to as “noncombatants,” but how can we decide how much oppression is tolerable and who is innocent under a colonial system? What is the threshold for dehumanization, what is the normal amount of genocide allowable? Butler assumes that discrimination can be weighed as abnormal variations in the American landscape, despite its perpetual reoccurrence. While this argument seems compelling it ignores the fundamental truth of the American colonial context, namely that the murder of Blacks appears normal, and as such does not constitute a premise for rejecting the system or punishing those whites responsible for the death of Blacks.


Fanon tells us that there are no innocents in the colonial situation. “Colonialism is not a type of individual relation but the conquest of a national territory and the oppression of a people: that is all.” The colonial context justifies itself to whites in the persecution and criminalization of Blacks, and in this way it knows that it is legitimate and permanent. Every white that participates in the colonial context, as if the tyranny against Blacks is the norm, and acceptable, in so far as it requires no individual action or culpability, is guilty of colonization, and as such is neither innocent nor absolved for being the particular manifestation of the colonial matrix. The possession of a white racial identity is a very real danger for African people insofar as that identity is embraced as the badge of white superiority. In this sense, every white is a concrete threat to the life of an African descended person, either as their executioner or the enforcer of white supremacy. Insofar as “whiteness” is the expectation of privilege, whiteness is also the expectation of those who cannot enjoy those privileges and the maintenance of their deprivation. Violence against whites is a revolt against both the colonial structures of the American context, as well as the rebellion against the individual whites who choose to claim the legacy of that oppression in a white racial identity.

Are you getting this? There are no innocent white people, because every white threatens the life of every black person, simply by existing. How on earth does a racist who believes things like this come to teach in a university? Leaving aside the fact that Curry is theorizing a justification for random violence against white people simply because they are white, how on earth is a white student in his class supposed to believe that he or she is being graded fairly, given that the professor believes that their existence is a threat to his existence?

Here is the gist of it, according to the philosophy of Dr. Tommy Curry, as well as the Emperor Palpatine: “Violence is anger realized as liberation.”

Except Emperor Palpatine does not hold a chair in philosophy at Texas A&M University.

More from this revealing academic paper:

Decolonization, says Fanon, “infuses a new rhythm, specific to a new generation of men, with a new language and a new humanity,” where the “thing colonized becomes a man through the very process of liberation.” The burden of freedom rests with those who are without it. It is in the longing to exist in the image of a people, as the heroes of one’s culture, and the courage to mold a cultural world that gives strength to the call for war.

Ah. And:

Violence against whites is not a mental act; it is the conscious organizing call for African descended people to act in concert, not for the destruction of a people, but for the creation of one. Violence is a concrete political act, just as the destruction of the colonial context is political action. “In its bare reality, decolonization reeks of red-hot cannonballs and bloody knives. For the last can be the first only after a murderous and decisive confrontation between the two protagonists.”

It’s not killing innocent white people, as if there were any such thing; it’s building up the black race, you see. Tommy Curry has held the “in order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people may have to die” position for some time now (remember, this paper came out in 2007). If you think this is not what Tommy Curry actually believes, but rather merely his exegesis of Frantz Fanon’s position, you have given his work an extremely naive reading — one that does not wish to hold him responsible for his “red-hot cannonballs and bloody knives” rhetoric.

Even more:

Violence admits the harsh political realities of the legal and social institutions of America pushing African descended people toward the truth held in a racial realist account of the world. The decision to act violently is a calculated risk; it admits the unchanging reality of Black oppression and seeks to respond to that oppression in earnest. Derrick Bell argues that “we must realize, as our slave forebears did, that the struggle of freedom is at the bottom, a manifestation of our humanity which survives and grows stronger through resistance to oppression.”

In the past, our Ancestors courageously fought and resisted the narratives of Eurocentrism, however, the potential for liberation will be based on the shaking off of the multiculturalist dogma that is hanging over the heads that allows us to endure the death of African people in an effort to humanize the oppressor and love our enemy. Ultimately, the Black scholar must reconcile this question as an African descended person. Do we (African descended people) advocate the death, murder, poverty, and oppression of our people at the hands of whites, or do we advocate the end of racism, even if the means to do so is war?

Well, Tommy, when you put it that way… .

The dissenters to such a view will no doubt support the basis of violence against whites as theoretically, and politically justified, but reject the proposal on the basis of practicality or morality. Here the criticisms that violence against whites will increase white racism, that violence against whites will inevitably harm more Blacks than our current oppression, that violence is simply not a promising political alternative for Black, or that violence against whites would make oppressed Blacks no better than the white oppressor are largely ideological co-signers to the maintenance of the status quo.

That is, Uncle Toms. More:

These criticisms only maintain the current conditions of Blacks now. Blacks are dying daily from poverty, police brutality and incarceration. Where are the objections to these realities? Is there an ontological difference between the deaths of Blacks that appear normal, and the deaths that appear abominable because they occurred in the midst of revolt? Does our willingness to be moral agents that seek to educate whites and live together peacefully arrest the murder of Black people? The reality of Blacks, especially Black men in American society, is that death is always imminent. Ultimately, the death of Blacks, be it at the hands of white supremacy , or in rebellion against colonialism, should advocate the unrealized possibility of their living, namely the end of racism.

And so, after the cleansing of fire and blood, utopia will have arrived, and racism will no more be upon the earth. So postulates Tommy Curry, tenured associate professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University.

There has been some local news coverage in College Station, Texas, about the controversy begun when I published Dr. Curry’s 2012 rant. Let me point out to readers that only one of the reporters who has written or broadcast about this has reached out to me in any way for my side of the story. In this case, a TV station gives Curry carte blanche to respond, and asks him powderpuff questions. Look:

Have you heard from President Young since his statement?

Answer: I have not heard anything from President Young or any administrators since the president released his letter. I believe that Young’s letter has firmly demonstrated where he and many Aggies get their news. The only venues suggesting that I am advocating violence are websites run by known white supremacists and felons. The venues defending my research and academic freedom are from all corners of the world and among the most respected in the academy. While many academics do not in fact agree with my actual research or conclusions, they have defended my right to research these areas and present my findings in public venues as a scholar. In other words, the only people arguing my comments are hateful and inciting violence are white supremacist websites whose readers are calling Black people Niggers, feral animals, savages, and rapists. When did these outlets become the reputable sources of information in institutions of higher learning or among administrators at Texas A&M University?

Tommy Curry ought to look up the laws against libel. To call me and/or my colleagues at TAC white supremacists or felons is libelous. I suppose it is easier to do that than to defend his beliefs when they are put under scrutiny. It may be that colleagues within the academy are accustomed to this kind of race-radicalism and so are willing to tolerate it and encourage it. But people off campus ought to know what’s being taught. I find it ironic that Texas A&M changed its campus speaker policies to prevent white supremacists (or, if you prefer, nationalists) like Richard Spencer from speaking in university facilities in the future, but give a man like Tommy Curry a classroom and the protection of tenure. Such is the double standard on university campuses today, I suppose.

But do not be deceived: the establishment that promotes and encourages inflammatory racial views by racial minorities implicitly and unavoidably calls forth these demons from whites like Richard Spencer. Race hatred of any kind is never justifiable, and is not the way to any kind of future worth having.



Want to join the conversation?

Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.

Join Now