UT Sociology's Statement on the Traditionalist Worker Party
We write as the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to register the strongest collective condemnation of the Traditionalist Worker Party and their presence on our campus. TWP, a fascist, white nationalist, and white supremacist organization, is overtly hostile to Jewish people, people of color, non-white immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, and women. They oppose democracy, freedom, and justice. As members of this university community who are deeply concerned about intellectual debate and the campus environment for our students, staff, and faculty, we agree with the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, provost, chancellor, and UT system president that this hate group does not belong on our campus.
We object to TWP’s manipulative use of free speech as cover for promoting their violent ideology. TWP has no genuine interest in free speech; their ideology, if actualized, would destroy the free speech rights of others. Their goal is to undercut rational debate, maintain structures of exclusion, and promote violence. White supremacy and Nazism are implicated in some of humanity’s worst crimes. Moreover, Matthew Heimbach, leader of TWP, helped organize the rally in Charlottesville where his comrades killed Heather Heyer. His followers also attacked an interracial couple after their rally in Shelbyville.
We find it fitting that TWP secured their space on campus through deception because their entire platform is based on lies. For example, the vast body of empirical evidence on racial inequality demonstrates clearly that the narrative of white victimhood central to the organizing model of white supremacist groups is simply wrong. White Americans are doing better than people of color on nearly any social measure, including health, income, wealth, educational achievement, and life expectancy. White supremacist groups ignore basic, incontrovertible facts about racial inequality in order to promote a mythical worldview.
TWP is intellectually bankrupt; they add nothing to academic debate. To the contrary, they and other fascists seek to undermine intellectual communities precisely because verifiable knowledge is a threat to their movement. Many of us in the Department of Sociology have spent our professional lives studying and teaching about inequalities and harm, and we will continue to do so as fortification against racism, xenophobia, sexism, and other manifestations of bigotry.