Black Professor Says California College Fired Her For Questioning Their 'Anti-racism Ideology'

Emma Campbell | July 20, 2023
Text Audio
00:00 00:00
Font Size

A former director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at a California college has filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that she was fired for questioning the school’s antiracist “orthodoxy.”

Tabia Lee, a Black woman, filed a lawsuit against De Anza College on July 10, accusing the school of “illegally targeting White people on the basis of race” in accordance with a strict adherence to what she called “third-wave antiracism ideology.” In her suit, Lee claimed that she was accused of “Whitesplaining” and not being the “right kind of Black person” over her objection to the “racial stereotypes peddled by Defendants.”

“Lee espouses the idea, abhorrent in the District, that people, especially teachers, must treat people like human beings, not political abstractions reduced to unchangeable attributes ascribed by characteristics of race and gender beloved by De Anza' s race and gender ideologues,” the lawsuit reads.

Lee’s suit claims that she “refused to knuckle under campus orthodoxy” and the “race-based pieties” of De Anza. She allegedly opposed the use of gender-neutral terms such as “Latinx,” questioned why “Black” was capitalized but “white” wasn’t, suggested changes to the school’s “land acknowledgements” practices with Native Americans, and voiced concerns about various other race-based practices on campus, only to be treated with open hostility in response. The suit alleged that Lee was accused of perpetuating “white supremacy” and “colonialism” by not adhering to the school’s “social justice” ideology. Additionally, she claims to have been called “a dirty Zionist” for having certain pro-Jewish speakers on campus.

“They called and referred to Jewish people as white oppressors. I had brought speakers into the campus to do antisemitism education and Jewish inclusion education, based on community members coming directly to us and saying they had concerns about our Jewish students at our school,” others allegedly said, according to Lee.

Related: Minn. AG Keith Ellison Compared Justice Clarence Thomas to a House Slave in ‘Django Unchained’

Lee is also a founding member and contributor to Free Black Thought, an online journal “dedicated to the rich diversity of thought among and about Black Americans.” The suit alleges that Lee’s humanistic approach and civil rights perspective ultimately lead to her termination. The school cited Lee’s “unwillingness to accept constructive criticism” and “persistent inability to demonstrate cooperation in working with colleagues and staff” as the reason for her firing, according to a letter provided to “Inside Higher Ed” by Lee.

“The Board and these official organizations of De Anza created and condoned a hostile environment attacking Dr. Lee’s free expression of ideas,” the lawsuit claims. “Yet these would-be ‘social justice’ activists condemned Dr. Lee because, they claimed, by encouraging critical thinking and expression of improper opinions, she supposedly created a ‘hostile environment’ for them.” (original emphasis)

“These are people who should definitely know better," Lee said in a phone interview with Newsweek. "And the way that they behaved was what they claim other people do to marginalized people. They literally marginalized me as an individual, and they shunned me and they worked really hard to push me out.”

Lee assumed the role as the director of DEI at De Anza College in August 2021, and was informed of her termination in March of this year. Through the lawsuit, she is hoping to reclaim her old job and gain restitution for the financial damages she has incurred. Lee is being represented by attorneys from the Foundation Against INtolerance and Racism (FAIR) network.

Follow MRCTV on Twitter!