A Duke University professor was defiant after the school last week condemned his “noxious” and “offensive” words in a letter published in The New York Times in which he compared African-Americans unfavorably to Asian-Americans.
The school’s rebuke came after a student backlash against Political Science Professor Jerry Hough, 80, whose May 9 letter sought to address racism and the Baltimore riots. Hough said African-Americans don’t try to integrate into society, while Asians “worked doubly hard” to overcome racism instead of blaming it.
“Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.”
– Duke University Prof. Jerry Hough
“Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration,” he wrote on May 10. “Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.”
Duke students and faculty blasted Hough last week, and the school told The News & Observer of Raleigh that he was placed on leave and that 2016 will be his last year at the school.
“The comments were noxious, offensive, and have no place in civil discourse,” said Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld. “Duke University has a deeply held commitment to inclusiveness grounded in respect for all, and we encourage our community to speak out when they feel that those ideals are challenged or undermined, as they were in this case.”
But Hough, in an e-mail to an ABC affiliate, said political correctness is getting in the way of thoughtful and frank debate.
“I am strongly against the obsession with ‘sensitivity,'” Hough wrote. “The more we have emphasized sensitivity in recent years, the worse race relations have become. I think that is not an accident. I know that the 60 years since the Montgomery bus boycott is a long time, and things must be changed. The Japanese and other Asians did not obsess with the concentration camps and the fact they were linked with blacks as ‘colored.’”
Hough even played the “Coach K” card, referencing beloved and legendary Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski in his email.
“Coach K did not obsess with all the Polish jokes about Polish stupidity,” Hough wrote. “He pushed ahead and achieved. And by his achievement and visibility, he has played a huge role in destroying stereotypes about Poles. Many blacks have done that too, but no one says they have done as well on the average as the Asians.”
Citing privacy, the university would not comment on the professor’s future at the school, the station reported. University officials say Hough has been on a standard academic leave for the 2014-15 school year.