The white students gathered around the fire, speculating why parts of the book were not already engulfed in flames.
“It’s a hard cover!” shouts one male student in a video amid laughs as ripped-out pages burn, torn from a novel written by a Hispanic author from Nebraska who had suggested white people are treated differently in society. That angered some students at Georgia Southern University.
In response to Jennine Capó Crucet’s talk on the Statesboro, Georgia, campus Wednesday, where she focused her discussion on white privilege, students gathered at a grill and torched her novel “Make Your Home Among Strangers” — about a first-generation Cuban American woman struggling to navigate a mostly white elite college.
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The tension began at a question-and-answer session following the talk, the university’s student newspaper the George-Anne reported.
“What makes you believe that it’s OK 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?” one student said at the microphone, the paper reported. “I don’t understand what the purpose of this was.”
Capó responded that white privilege was evident within the question itself.
“What’s so heartbreaking for me and what is so difficult in this moment right now is to literally have read a talk about this exact moment happening and it’s happening again. That is why a different experience, the white experience, is centered in this talk,” she said.
Capó, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, tweeted her official statement.
Here’s my official statement about what happened at the @GeorgiaSouthern event — and please direct all questions or media requests to James (dot) Meader (at) picadorusa (dot) com.— Jennine Capó Crucet (@crucet) October 11, 2019
Much love and gratitude to all those who’ve shown support here and elsewhere. Abrazos to you all. pic.twitter.com/9uEuALUlvs
In part it said: “This book began as an act of love and an attempt at deeper understanding. I hope GSU can act from the same place and work to affirm the humanity of those students who might understandably feel unsafe in the aftermath of the event and the book burning, and that the campus continues the difficult and necessary conversation that began in that auditorium.”
Following the event, Capó praised some of the “very amazing, brilliant students” she met.
“At the signing, we hugged & cried,” she tweeted. “I’m happy to know them and also legit worried for their safety.”
Other students had a different reaction. Several burned copies of her novel, using photos and videos to troll her on Twitter. One student sent a photo of ripped pages to Capó over Twitter.
“Enjoy this picture of your book!” a tweet captured by the George-Anne said. “Have a nice night, Jennine. :-)”
That tweet and others collected by the paper were later deleted.
“While it’s within the students’ First Amendment rights, book burning does not align with Georgia Southern’s values nor does it encourage the civil discourse and debate of ideas,” the university said in a statement.
Capó said on Twitter that another event scheduled for Thursday was canceled “because the administration said they could not guarantee my safety or the safety of its students on campus because of open-carry laws.” Jennifer Wise, a university spokeswoman, said the event was canceled at the request of Capó’s representative.
Other students were dismayed over the book burning.
“It makes me feel like we are being represented really badly. It makes me feel like these people make us look as a school and even as a freshman class really ignorant and racist,” said Carlin Blalock, a freshman music education student.
“Just seeing it happen, I know they didn’t read the book or they didn’t care. It’s so disrespectful to even think about doing anything to that book because that’s her life story. I wish I could have been there to do something about it.”