George Ciccariello Mahers

A Drexel professor is "concerned for (his) family's safety" after receiving "hundreds of death threats" in response to a controversial Tweet

December 27, 2016 10:19 AM

Drexel University associate professor is “concerned for (his) family’s safety” after receiving “hundreds of death threats” in response to a controversial tweet he posted on December 24 but says he stands by what he wrote.

“All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide” George Ciccariello-Maher, a politics and global studies professor who has been at Drexel in Philadelphia for seven years, tweeted on Saturday.

The “satirical” comment, he says, was a response to the “racist bile” he saw on Twitter after State Farm released an “uncontroversial ad showing a black man proposing to a white woman.”

“You can’t ignore the creeping racism that is finding a public voice in our midst,” Ciccariello-Maher tells PEOPLE. “I saw dozens of comments and hashtags with ‘White genocide’ and people saying they would refuse to buy State Farm, because the (company) is contributing to downfall of white race.

He adds, “My goal was to mock unacceptable beliefs. So, am I glad we are having this needed conversation? Of course! But I’m not glad to be threatened and have my family’s safety in jeopardy.”

Ciccariello-Maher says there’s always “a risk with people decontextualizing intent online” — but what people “don’t understand” is that “the tweet was meant to poke fun at a non-existent thing.”

“Some people get satire more than others, but this is how it works,” he explains. “If you go to Twitter, a great deal of (the content) is satire. The goal is to mock unacceptable beliefs and these are unacceptable beliefs! I’m happy to have mocked them.”

Adds Ciccariello-Maher: “White Genocide isn’t real… It takes one second to look up the phrase online to show you it’s a white nationalist and racist concept.”

Drexel issued a statement in response to Ciccariello-Maher’s Tweet: “While the University recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University.”

The University did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment on Ciccariello-Maher’s explanation of the tweet.

But Ciccariello-Maher says he has been in contact with the University, who supports “the unquestionable right to speech by faculty.”

“I’m just concerned about my colleagues, who have all been receiving threats as well,” he says. “It’s clear it’s organized, all emails have the same structure with similar subject lines, almost like they are computer generated.

“It’s very transparently racist.”

Ciccariello-Maher has since deleted his tweet and made his account private.

“Because of the torrent and tsunami of harassment that I’ve been subjected to at this point,” he explains. “You can disagree or agree with past tweets but if you take it out it slows the whole media cycle a bit.”

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