Imagine you are a Black student at the University of Tennesee at Knoxville, fully aware of the struggles of your ancestors in America. Now imagine that your White professor teaching the class ” Sociology of the Family” gives an exam that includes the following question:
Historical research on African-American families during slavery shows that:
A) Family ties weren’t important in African cultures where the slaves’ ancestors originated; consequently, family bonds were never strong among slaves.
B) Two-parent families were extremely rare during the slave period.
C) Black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners.
D) Most slave families were headed by two parents.
Kayla Parker, a student who identifies herself as a “Queer, Black, and fed up feminist+ on the blog site mystudentvoices.com, chose (C) and was marked incorrect by her professor Judy Morelock, a lecturer in the department of sociology. Parker choose to press the issue and the result was an unprofessional and some say a racist attack by Morelock against Parker on social media.
In an exchange that took place in February 2017, Parker posted the following to Facebook
There were also heated exchanges in the hallway between Parker and her professor when she asked how as a college educator in 2017 could she justify citations of White male sociologists from the ’50s and ’60s. A question that caused Morelock to bristle with anger and state the following, according to Parker:
“I have taught thousands of black students and I have never had anyone disagree with how I cover this”; “You’re talking to someone who has spent their entire life fighting for people of diversity and marched with my Black brothers and sisters”; and even “I went to an integrated Kindergarten when I was 6 and I thought it was normal!”
“To which I responded, ‘So I can’t ask a question about the quiz?’ My professor replied, “’You can ask me whatever you damn well please but I have never in my life had a student question my knowledge!’ However, in her fit of rage, my Professor made her fatal mistake. She derisively challenged me to lecture the class on the topic if I’m so sure of myself. She clearly didn’t know who the f–k I was.”
Parker took her complaints to the head of the department when Morelock started harassing her on Facebook. Eventually, Morelock was terminated early from UT. Her teaching contract was due to expire at the end of the academic year but the school let her go in April. The story is now news because of what Morelock did after she knew she was in trouble. She posted to social media, “After the semester is over and she’s no longer my student, I will post her name, her picture and her bio on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Count on it. For now, I’m bound by university rules that grant her more latitude in freedom of speech than I have. After she graduates and I retire, all bets are off.”
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville will not comment on the situation because of federal privacy laws. Morelock has stated to media she is not racist and has been advised not to grant anymore interview requests.