Who is Rita Mookerjee? Iowa State professor says she limits interactions with White people 'as much as possible'
An Iowa State University professor, who is a person of color, has gotten into trouble for making a comment on White people on Twitter. She wrote, "Lately, I try to limit my interactions with yt people as much as possible. I can't with the self-importance and performance esp during Black History Month.”
The term "yt" is internet slang for "white folks". It is typically used by people of color. The tweet was shared by professor Rita Mookerjee on February 12. Campus Reform, an American conservative news website focused on higher education, reported that the same professor was invited to speak on a student government "diversity and inclusion panel" on March 10.
Who is Professor Rita Mookerjee?
As per the Iowa State University website, Mookerjee is part of the core faculty at the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Iowa State. She is a graduate of the English Department at Florida State University. Her specialization is contemporary literature of the Caribbean with a focus on gender and food studies.
Mookerjee, a native of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, received the 2017-2018 Edward F and Marie C Kingsbury Award and the May Alexander Ryburn Fellowship in 2015. Her work has been featured in the Bloomsbury Handbook to Literary and Cultural Theory, the Bloomsbury Handbook of Twenty-First Century Feminist Theory, the Routledge Companion to Food and Literature, and Palaver Journal. As per the July 2019 announcement, Mookerjee joined as an assistant teaching professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, within the LAS Sociology Department. Mookerjee reportedly teaches Introduction to Queer Studies, International Perspectives on WGS and Feminist Theories.
“Our faculty are always covering topical issues in course content and exploring texts off the beaten, canonical path,” she said at the time. “I’m here to break the mold and create safe spaces for people of marginalized communities.”
As per Campus Reform, on October 12, 2020, Mookerjee tweeted: “That said, it is foolish to dismiss student critique. Always listen but, learn to accept that Whyte men with dirty hair and wrinkled clothes will always be more liked and higher ranked.” She also wrote, sharing her own photo, “Someone called me white the other day so #NewProfilePic because I think the f**k not.”
Mookerjee has since deleted her Twitter account. On RateMyProfessor, Mookerjee has recently received a lot of criticism. However, her previous reviews were positive. On May 9, several users posted negative comments on her and even used transphobic slurs.
In a statement, the university's student government group said in March that while Mookerjee's remarks did not "reflect the views of the student government", it would not remove her from the aforementioned Women's Week panel.
"Student government does not agree with the content of the comments that were made — no one should be reduced to the color of their skin," the statement said. "The tweets from the panelist do not reflect the views of Student Government: we believe that prejudice based on race or the color of someone's skin is wrong in all accounts. We have decided that the professor will still be invited to participate in the panel; it is important to allow ideas to be shared, even if they find the comments to be wrong. In order to have a true free marketplace of ideas, we must not rescind an offer to speak based on our objection to someone's personal speech."