Houston A. Baker, Jr served as President of the Modern Language Association of America in 1992. He has taught at Yale, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, and Duke, and is currently Distinguished University Professor and Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of articles, books, and essays devoted to African American Literary Criticism and Theory. His book Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era received an American Book Award for 2009. He is co-editor with Professor Merinda Simmons of the collection of original essays titled The Trouble With Post-Blackness (Columbia University Press, 2015). Included below is his statement in support of an MLA academic boycott resolution
“What is most devastating is that global capitalism, cowardly avarice, and silence have allowed (especially since 1967) the nation state [of Israel] thus formulated to commit all manner of atrocity upon the Palestinian people.”
My thoughts about BDS, and the reasons I support an MLA academic boycott resolution, are not complicated. To occupy someone else’s land and declare a nation state with the militaristic backing of an imperialist power is to pillage. Historical examples are legion. Think: The territories of the land masses of what has come (by random enunciation) to be called “America,” the “Americas,” the “United States of America.” Similarly, with militaristic backing and global allowance, to declare Israel a sovereign state and buttress such trespass with a myth of heroic founding on “unoccupied,” “unsettled,” or “nomadic” lands is exterminating self-justification. What is most devastating is that global capitalism, cowardly avarice, and silence have allowed (especially since 1967) the nation state thus formulated to commit all manner of atrocity upon the Palestinian people. Further pillage seems to have been the brutal momentum of the original “establishment.” What is not complicated in 2016 is the fact that the nation state of Israel is roundly supported in its dauntingly meretricious actions and policies by so many world governments, leaders, corporations, and citizenries. It does little good, perhaps, once the initial militaristic establishment has taken hold, to point to the vehement resentment and even violence of those who have been betrayed as a post-facto “cause” for the illegitimate establishment of the state in the first instance. And, of course, “Antisemitism” cast as an aspersion upon those who reiterate the facts of the state as they are, is childish sticks and stones.
Sign the “Open Letter” calling on the MLA membership to endorse a resolution in support of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Only the signatures of (former or current) MLA members will be included.