Meet the journalism professor who called Thanksgiving a ‘white-supremacist holiday’

University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen published an opinion piece about Thanksgiving last Wednesday that tied the holiday to genocide.

Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.

Jensen told UT paper The Daily Texan the column dates back to 2007, when he confronted his discomfort with celebrating the holiday. “I wrote that piece, in part, for people that were struggling with the same practical problems that I was,” Jensen told David Maly.

The professor, Maly notes, also drew fire for a 2001 column that attempted to put the 9/11 attacks in context of past United States actions abroad. Former UT president Larry Faulkner wrote a letter to the Houston Chronicle after that column calling Jensen a “fountain of undiluted foolishness on issues of public policy” but wouldn’t engage with the Austin Chronicle’s Lee Nichols in what he called a “detailed debate” about what that meant.

One of Jensen’s three UT sites links to lots of other pieces, including an exhortation to talk politics at Thanksgiving and — perhaps more controversial given his ZIP code — a piece about hating college football.

In an email, Jensen says he teaches a course called “Critical Issues in Journalism” as well as media law classes. “I have the best job in the world,” he wrote earlier this year about his tenured position. “I get paid a salary that allows me to live comfortably and give back to the community. To earn this salary, I am asked to spend my time thinking, reading, writing, and talking, all things I enjoy doing even when not being paid.” He’s been at UT since 1992.

He has written extensively about pornography and produced a documentary about the activist Abe Osheroff. He maintains a busy speaking schedule and on his site provides links to his political activities.

Before becoming an academic, Jensen worked as a reporter and copy editor for a number of papers, including the Poynter-owned St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Jensen also emailed Poynter a statement about his teaching philosophy, which calls for him to occasionally “step out of the role as a conveyor of information or surveyor of ideas to make an explicit argument to students.” Students, he writes, “are capable of responding to [that role-switching] as critics, not passive receptacles of information.”

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  • Kurban_Said

    Might make more sense to mark Columbus’ Day that way. After all, 90% of
    the indigenous population died within the first 100 years of Columbus’s
    landing–of dysentery and repeated exposure to diseases such as measles,
    smallpox, pleurisy, typhus, tuberculosis, and diphtheria. The original
    population was around 90 million to 110 million but not many lived north
    of Mexico–maybe 10 million. Most of the Native Americans died at the
    early end of that century too. So, sorry, by the time the Pilgrims
    arrived was hardly the beginning of the holocaust.

    Wait a minute … if Spanish and Portuguese colonizers were directly or indirectly responsible for most of those deaths, are they considered white or Hispanic?

    I wonder
    about the world genocide in this case too. I think people like this
    editorialist probably think most Native Americans were murdered by gun
    or machete or white “Americans”. Sure, that happened. For example, a
    few Native Americans somehow survived for 200 years on Trinidad under
    the Spanish. The British take over and systematically hunted people down
    in a decade or so, the way they later did in Tasmania (they also drove
    the few remaining people into the sea.) But the vast majority of the
    indigenous population had already died off on the island, even tho the
    Spanish and Portuguese are regarded as more benign (for lack of a better
    word) colonizers and slave-owners than the British and Dutch.

    is pretty basic stuff. If’s common to learn it in US history in junior
    high school and any intro college course in anthro, Latin American
    history, Caribbean history, slavery north and south, etc. Anyway, seems to me it is commonly
    mentioned around Thanksgiving and/or Columbus Day. What kind of
    education do these writers have? Why don’t they investigate the
    curriculum in their local schools or colleges? Or pick up a basic
    textbook? Probably even in Wikipedia. Just because they attended a lousy school a hundred years ago, they shouldn’t assume everyone’s education was the same or is the same today.

  • Dan Bloom

    Jensen, Robert W is a good man, as much as a good American as the rest of us here, and his POV on Thanksgiving is a good one to hear. So much of USA history is propaganda down the ages, from the cherry tree story and never tell a lie to Pochahantas etc. Americans need to wake up to the real history of our nation. It aint all a pretty picture. Imagine if you were a Native American and you had to witness the LIE every November. It was the beginning of the American Holocaust. Admit it. I wrote a note of thanks to Professor Jensen the other day before reading this item and he wrote back: To: Dan Bloom Reply | Reply to all | Forward | Print | Delete | Show original Dan: Thanks for the note and the kind words about my article.
    in solidarity, bob jensen

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    Thank you, Mr. Jensen, for making a very strong case for the privatization of taxpayer-funded education. You are the poster child. You’re welcome.

  • Tish Grier

    I’ve seen Jensen’s sentiments re Thanksgiving slowly seeping into the thoughts of many of my more radical left-leaning friends. Which sometimes makes the rest of us super-uncomfortable about even acknowledging the holiday in their presence. Perhaps that sentiment also has made it easier for retailers to marginalize Thanksgiving as they speed us into Holiday shopping season and take away a day of rest from workers as they pursue earlier and earlier “Black Friday” opening times (“Black Thursday”?) It would be interesting to explore this further–but who knows what kind of answer we’d get from savvy P.R. and retail marketing folks.