Georgia Southern University Students Burn Latina Author's Book After She Discusses White Privilege

White students at Georgia Southern University (GSU) burned Latina author Jennine Capó Crucet’s novel after she spoke about white privilege on campus. Crucet faced hostile questions from students during the event and was accused of “attacking white people.”

Crucet, a New York Times contributor and associate professor at the University of Nebraska, was invited to GSU on October 9 to discuss her award-winning novel Make Your Home Among Strangers. The 2015 book explores the life of a Cuban American teen who struggles to fit in at a prestigious, predominantly white, college she is accepted to in New York.

Make Your Home Among Strangers was required reading for some of GSU”s First-Year Experience classes, BuzzFeed News reported. Crucet spoke about the book during an event for the entire first-year class and then the floor was opened to questions from students.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Crucet said during the Q&A, a white student questioned whether she had the authority to speak on issues of race and white privilege on campus.

“I noticed that you made a lot of generalizations about the majority of white people being privileged,” one student told Crucet, according to the university’s newspaper the George-Anne. “What makes you believe that it’s okay to come to a college campus, like this, when we are supposed to be promoting diversity on this campus, which is what we’re taught. I don’t understand what the purpose of this was.”

Crucet responded to the student that she was asked to speak at the institution and discuss white privilege because “it’s a real thing that you are actually benefiting from right now in even asking this question.”

In her statement, Crucet noted that the student’s “hostile reaction to my work closely mirrored the exchange that I recount in the essay itself. It was very surreal and strange. I answered the question with the same response that I cite in the essay, and mentioned out loud that this moment felt like déjà vu.”

Students then began shouting in intense verbal exchanges back and forth, prompting Crucet to ask faculty to follow up with the student and others who appeared upset “because a compassionate and continuing conversation needed to occur.”

Some students later accused Crucet of attacking white people and making generalizations about the white students in the audience.

“She came to our school and, the audience was predominately white, and she came in and was attacking white people for an hour, putting all these stereotypes and generalizations on us,” an 18-year-old student who asked not to be named told BuzzFeed News. “Like all white people are privileged and racist.”

After the event, a group of students gathered on campus and burned Crucet’s book. Videos posted on Twitter show the students laughing as copies of the book burned.

The author said that after the event, her campus hosts moved her from her original accommodation in town to another hotel in a different town. She later learned a crowd had gathered at her original lodging and students had burned copies of her novel.

Crucet said that she was approached by GSU students who told her how the novel’s story resonated in their lives.

“To think of those students watching as a group of their peers burned that story—effectively erasing them on the campus they are expected to think of as a safe space—feels devastating,” she said in her statement.

Crucet continued: “I hope GSU can act from the same place and work to affirm the humanity of those students who might understandably feel unsafe in the aftermath of the event and the book burning, and that the campus continues the difficult and necessary conversation that began in that auditorium.”

John Lester, a vice president of communications at GSU, defended students who burned Crucet’s book. Lester told USA Today the book burning was within the students’ First Amendment rights. However, he added that the “book burning does not align with Georgia Southern’s values nor does it encourage the civil discourse and debate of ideas.”

GSU did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.

While the university did not disavow the students’ actions, Russell Willerton, chair of GSU’s department of writing and linguistics, expressed his support for Crucet and called on students “to handle their frustrations in better ways.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.