Black Professor at Vanderbilt Called an “Apologist for White Supremacists”

Carol M. Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, was harshly criticized as an “apologist for white supremacists” by officials at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, for her endorsement of the documentary film, A Conversation About Race. Professor Swain is quoted on the cover of the DVD of the film saying the work is “outstanding and meticulously done.”

But the Southern Poverty Law Center says the film, which claims that racism has subsided in the United States but that blacks continue to play the race card to gain greater advantages, is “a hit among white supremacists looking for a smart-sounding defense of their beliefs.” The center reports that the filmmaker, Craig Bodeker, has referred to President Obama and other African Americans as “monkeys.”

Professor Swain told JBHE that she did not learn of the charges of racism against Bodeker until after she had reviewed the film. She also did not endorse the content of the film but merely expressed the belief that it could be used in social science classes to generate debate.

Professor Swain also related to JBHE that after the controversy was reported in the Nashville newspaper, “there has been both negative and positive reaction in the black community. Mostly, the reaction has been positive from people who understand newspaper sensationalism.”