The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Religious studies professor Anthea Butler gives an interview in Fisher-Bennett Hall. Credit: Sophia Lee , Sophia Lee

In the wake of public outcry over the not-guilty verdict of the accused murderer of Trayvon Martin, one Penn professor has created outcry over her comments calling god “a white racist.”

Anthea Butler, a professor of religious and Africana studies, penned an op-ed in the online magazine Religious Dispatch in which she decried Americans’ conception of god as inherently racist.

“God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us,” she wrote. “As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men.”

She went on to write that racism in American history is caused by the United States’ relationship with Christianity, and that accused murderer George Zimmerman’s defense that it was “God’s plan” for him to shoot Martin was indicative of how religion is used to perpetuate racism.

The opinion has attracted national media attention and an uproar on Twitter deeming Butler racist and calling for Penn to fire her.

“[Y]ou will be fired and removed from the Ivy league, never blame god again,” read one tweet. Butler, who declined several requests for comment, has defended herself on Twitter and in an interview with The Huffington Post.

“First of all, they don’t understand it’s between small ‘g’ god and big ‘G’ God. Big ‘G’ God is the deity. Little ‘g’ is different kinds of gods,” Butler told the Huffington Post. “But this was especially touchy for [conservative Christians] because I hit on some things that are kind of true,” she said.

Butler is protected by tenure, so no action can be taken against her for expressing her personal views, regardless of their popularity.

Related: Professor brings religion to 21st century

“In keeping with the values of academic freedom at the heart of our university, professors are entitled to participate in the free exchange of ideas and in political exchanges outside the classroom,” Vice Provost for Faculty Anita Allen said in a statement, noting that faculty members’ opinions do not necessarily represent those of the University. “Whether or not we agree with the positions expressed, we support free expression and the free exchange of ideas as essential elements of a great university.”

Despite some negative reactions, others were more supportive of Butler’s message.

“Personally, I think what Professor Butler had to say is a very interesting take on a lot of the commentary that’s been going around the Trayvon Martin trial,” said UMOJA political co-chair Nikki Hardison, a rising Wharton junior. “Within America and within Christian life I feel like there’s just a totally different outlook on race and on social issues,” she added, noting that she understood Butler to be criticizing people who use Christianity to justify racism and not Christianity itself.

Danielle Marryshow, a rising College senior and former UMOJA board member, expressed similar sentiments.

“God is used to say people of color need to calm down or people of color aren’t as important in the grand scheme of things,” she said. “I think that many people missed the point because of the inflammatory nature [of the article], but I also think [Butler] had to have known she was being inflammatory.”

Butler is no stranger to controversy. In September, she received criticism for a tweet linking a movie to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi and saying that the filmmaker should be put in jail for inciting the attack.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.