Columbia Law School To Host Speaker Who Charged Jews Benefit From 'White Privilege,' Creating Tension With 'People of Color'

'Many Jews—not all Jews, but the majority of them—are white, so they still experience white privilege,' says Fatimah Gilliam

Jesse Lee Peterson, Fatimah Gilliam (The Fallen State, YouTube)
April 5, 2024

Columbia Law School is slated to host an event next week with a DEI author and alumna who said Jews benefit from "white privilege," thus creating "some sort of tension" between Jews and "people of color."

Fatimah Gilliam, a self-described "diversity disruptor," is scheduled to headline a discussion at the elite law school on Tuesday, a week before Columbia's president, Minouche Shafik, will testify before Congress on her response to campus anti-Semitism. Gilliam's event, hosted by Columbia Law's Office of Student Services and the Black Law Students Association, will provide attendees with "advice and talking points when interacting across race."

While it's unclear if Gilliam will discuss interactions between Jewish people and "people of color," the author has touched on the topic before. During a March 22 podcast interview, Gilliam argued that while Jewish people do experience discrimination, they also benefit from "white privilege," creating what she says is "the source of some tension" between Jews and "people of color."

"That's, like, how there could be an affinity between blacks—people of color—and Jews, is this common experience of marginalization and discrimination," said Gilliam. "But then at the same time, many Jews—not all Jews, but the majority of them—are white, so they still experience white privilege and some of the benefits that come with being white. And so I think that could be the source of some tension."

Columbia Law's decision to host Gilliam comes as the Ivy League institution faces criticism over its response to campus anti-Semitism. Shafik and Columbia Board of Trustees co-chairs David Greenwald and Claire Shipman are slated to testify before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on April 17. Greenwald serves on Columbia Law School's Dean's Council.

Columbia Law School did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to her "white privilege" comment toward Jews, Gilliam penned a February op-ed for The Hill that accused Israel of "plausibly" committing genocide. Gilliam said she was "complicit" in that genocide "as an American."

"As a Black woman who values life and a former United Nations World Food Programme professional, it's hard to vote for a president complicit in what the UN International Court of Justice said is plausibly genocide, who has made me equally complicit as an American," wrote Gilliam.

Following Claudine Gay's resignation in January as president of Harvard University, meanwhile, Gilliam said Gay was a victim of "Trojan horse racism" that was "hidden under claims of plagiarism and antisemitism."

"The way Claudine Gay was targeted reveals old-school racism that's hidden under claims of plagiarism and antisemitism," Gilliam told the Toronto Star. "As soon as Gay was in their crosshairs and she survived the dumpster fire disaster on Capitol Hill, they pivoted towards her credentials. They leaned into what's often lurking in the back of some people's minds when encountering smart, accomplished, Black women—that they're unqualified, dishonest, and thieves."

Days later, Gilliam praised activist Tamika Mallory, who was ousted from the anti-Trump group she helped lead, the Women's March, following accusations of anti-Semitism. Mallory has ties to anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has called Jews "termites" and praised Adolf Hitler as a "very great man." Mallory called Farrakhan the "GOAT," or "Greatest of All Time," and has been pictured holding hands with the Nation of Islam leader.

Gilliam is the author of Race Rules: What Your Black Friend Won't Tell You, a "practical manual for white people of the unwritten rules relating to race." She did not respond to a request for comment.

The law school's dean, Gillian Lester, who is set to step down at the end of the academic year, has been plagued by a spate of anti-Semitism scandals. Two days after Oct. 7, Lester released a muted statement that did not mention Hamas, anti-Semitism, or the Jewish people. After facing criticism, she released a new statement that blamed Hamas for the attacks and described them as an act of terrorism.

Since then, unauthorized anti-Israel protests have taken over the law school and disrupted classes on campus. In January, Columbia also hosted an anti-Israel advocate, Wesam Ahmad, who works for the nonprofit group Al Haq. Israel considers Al Haq a terrorist organization due to the group's alleged ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terror group.