F*** White Supremacy: Epistemic Disobedience, Free Speech, and Protest

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

As one of the students who faced disciplinary action at Columbia University for "interrupting/disrupting" white supremacist speakers on campus, A. Kayum Ahmed reflects on his experiences and offers some insights on the question of free speech and its intersections with human rights discourses. Employing Mignolo's framework of 'epistemic disobedience' he contests Columbia University's characterization of free speech as an American value, arguing that it obfuscates deeper underlying concerns about power and violence. Notions of free speech have become a proxy for upholding racism, patriarchy, and oppression, and can be conceived as a mechanism for perpetuating violence—both structural and epistemic—by those in power and by those who control the First Amendment narrative.

A. Kayum Ahmed is a Doctoral Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University and an Adjunct Faculty member at Columbia Law School. Prior to joining Columbia University as a student and faculty member, Kayum served as Chief Executive Officer of the South African Human Rights Commission from 2010 to 2015. During his term at the Commission, Kayum led a team of 178 colleagues to monitor, protect and promote human rights in South Africa, and oversaw the management of nearly 45,000 human rights cases. Following his involvement in anti white supremacist protests at Columbia University, Kayum was placed on a right wing "Professor Watchlist" for advancing "leftist propaganda in the classroom.”