In what sounds like a scandal taken out of a segment of “The Breakfast Club Power” on 105.1 FM, Victor Skormin, a distinguished service professor of electrical and computer engineering, posted a hilarious picture of him dressed in a shirt that says “REDNECK JEW” on social media. He matched his shirt with a Confederate flag hat that proudly has “REBEL” written in all caps. Of course, in the picture he was holding a rifle, because it just wouldn’t feel right without one.
Clearly, Skormin found the image very humorous because he felt the need to post it on his personal Facebook account, for all his fellow “comedic” friends to see. But Skormin made a bad decision, even though he clearly felt free to do so.
Obviously offended, many students, staff and faculty have criticized Skormin’s actions. But this isn’t the first time Skormin has faced controversy. In March 2018, Skormin replied to an email regarding an event being held by The National Society of Black Engineers with a retort saying, “Please let me know about a dinner of the National Society of White Engineers. Thank you.” Although he did apologize for his comment, that doesn’t make it alright, especially since anyone with a basic level of intelligence would know how deeply ignorant a comment like that is.
Skormin says he just wants to see us laugh. But offensive pictures are not a good way to spread humor, and nor is bringing up the moot point of no one protesting women who wear ripped jeans, as Skormin did when he was called out on his racist behavior.
If he was seriously apologetic, he wouldn’t also say that people are entitled to wear whatever they feel like as long as it doesn’t offend others, even though all the clothes he wore in the photo are clearly offensive to multiple groups.
It’s a terrifying feeling knowing that professors at your school find topics like these comical. It upsets me to know that professors like Skormin can show their little racist — oh wait, I mean “comedic” — tendencies and still have a job; because not everyone deserves a second chance.
People of color at this school often feel excluded and ignored on this campus. Letting Skormin slide off his second offense feels like a slap to the face of those students, especially for students of color in engineering who are already in a field that lacks diversity. They have to sit in a class being taught by a man who finds humor in “REDNECK JEW” shirts and Confederate flag hats. Skormin himself is a racist and a joke for posting such a clearly offensive picture and then being surprised by the backlash. But maybe we are also jokes because we keep expecting better from a predominantly white institution that has clearly demonstrated it does not really care.