Colleagues rally around Calvin professor placed on conservative ‘watch list’

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Words penned by a Calvin College professor nearly two years ago have landed him on a conservative group’s 'watch list.'

Calvin College social work instructor Joe Kuilema wrote an article back in December 2015 following the discovery of swastikas and racist remarks etched into snow on a parked car on campus. In it, he discussed systemic racism on campus and nationwide, specifically the concept of white power and white privilege within institutions such as Congress and Calvin College itself.

“When we imagine white supremacy primarily as something ‘out there’ that’s incompatible with us ‘in here,’ we ignore the plank in our own eye,” Kuilema wrote in his op-ed. “Calvin College would not exist without racism. To put it in the words of Calvin’s own ‘From Every Nation’ document, ‘the early builders of the Christian Reformed Church and Calvin College benefited from this racial differentiation, and in the process they inherited a national legacy of white privilege and the subjugation of people of color.”’

The remarks didn’t sit well with Turning Point USA, and the conservative non-profit student activist group located on campuses in all 50 states added Kuilema to their list of hundreds of college and university educators they feel “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”

In a statement to FOX 17, Turning Point wrote:

"Kuilema is on the website for writing that all white people, by virtue of being white, are racists. By throwing out the 'racism' charge against a whole group of people for being white, or even those who are not white but also don't believe in white privilege, Kuilema effectively shuts down debate on the subject, which is unfortunate because if he would seriously like to discuss the 'institutions' that prevent all people from getting ahead (such as the heavy regulations, higher taxes, and other constraints on innovation and job creation) he would surely find some common cause with our organization. However, professors like Kuilema contribute to divisiveness in the country by yeling 'racist' at anyone that disagrees with the premise of their argument."

Faculty and staff at Calvin fired back, authoring a letter to Turning Point and garnering 111 signatures in support of Kuilema. In that letter, signees challenged Turning Point’s criteria for their list and asked to all be added based on their viewpoints.

“Professor Kuilema is listed on the Professor Watchlist because of his statements about systemic racism in the United States,” the letter reads. “If an aim of your site is to identify professors who maintain that racism remains a difficult problem in American society, then all of us need to be on the list.”

One of the signees was Rachel Venema, PhD., a colleague of Kuilema’s in the social work program. She openly supported his style of teaching, and his attention to issues of race.

“I think the reason the reason that we felt it was important to sign the petition was that Professor Kuilema does what any good teacher does,” said Venema. “He provides a space for students to think critically about issues, and he very much provides an environment that is open and respectful. And so we wanted to show our support for him and say, this is what good educators do.”

In emails to FOX 17, Kuilema said he tries to adhere to Calvin’s mission of getting students to “think deeply, to act justly, and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world” and called Turning Point’s views of his article “unfortunate.”

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10 comments

  • KTT

    On this day we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, we remember his words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    It is sad we’re at the point that all the liberals and liberal professors such as this one can do is judge people by the color of their skin. Parents, heed the warning and don’t send your kids to Calvin. Racist professors, apparently 111 of them, have infiltrated this college.

    • Bob

      Calvin College is NOT Liberal. It is a Conservative Christian college. Here is something from their website:

      “Calvin College is a top-ranked college in Grand Rapids, Michigan that prepares students to be Christ’s agents of renewal in the world. Through rigorous academic study and intentional Christian community, you will learn to think deeply, act justly and live wholeheartedly in everything that you do”.

  • Loraine Wilber

    If, his statements are accepted as true, then we must also accept that all people of color have a “chip on their shoulder” and are racist because of their color. Saying all of any group is rasist, is a racist statement in itself. We need to face it. If we were all the same color we would be dealing with attitudes about eye color, or the shape of the nose, or how tall or short a person is. We need to stop talking about it, and move on.

  • Kevin Rahe

    I’ve never treated or spoke about someone unfairly because of the color of their skin. To suppose that I do leaves me in the untenable position of being expected to change something I can’t, because the thing I’m being asked to change isn’t real.

    My own shortcomings are enough for me to deal with, without being saddled with what might or might not have been the sins of my ancestors.

  • Jeff Mulder

    To be fair to him, if I can, I think he’s basically saying this; if, for example, you own a business, and a white person who looks like you and a person whose skin is a different color apply for a job and their qualifications are for the most part, equal, and you hire the white person in large part because they look like you / they feel more “comfortable”, well, even if you say “the other person seemed nice, I have nothing against them, I wish them well” – well, you’ve still participated in social “racism”. Now, if you’re not a Christian, you can reject what they’re saying, but I think they’re especially targeting and challenging the Christian community to take to heart the Bible’s “picture” of believers from all nations. My only comment to them in this regard is they really need to get more specific; to just say “anyone who does not admit to “white privilege” = a racist, well, all the profs may support their colleague, but come on, you can do a little better and try to provide some “meat” to your argument. Give people examples as to how they do this – and also be prepared to chastise those who simply hide behind the “I’m so discriminated against” argument – because that is real. Yes, everyone should be treated equally and fairly and surrounding ourselves with those like us, while more comfortable, is not consistent with the Biblical picture, but don’t forget to hold those accountable who could have benefited from some pretty major strides of the last decades but choose not to. Please recognize it’s not entirely the “majority’s” fault and to, in effect, blame disparities in income, housing, education, etc. on “white privilege” is to take a pretty superficial picture of the whole problem. And yes, I’m sure they would say “we never said it was all the problem”; well, when you mention nothing else, it kind of feels that way to readers.