Television personality and former naval officer Montel Williams is sticking up for a college student who was punished over a remark he made on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak.
Colorado College student Thaddeus Pryor was given a six-month suspension earlier this month because he replied to a Yik Yak post that said "#blackwomenmatter," with, "They matter, they're just not hot." The school initially planned to punish him for 21 months, but his sentence was reduced on appeal.
Williams wrote a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday defending Pryor, despite the student's "moronic" comment. He said he has researched Pryor and believes the Colorado student isn't racist, just a college kid who made a mistake.
"I want to protect the kid's privacy -- but we're convinced he's on the level," Williams told The Huffington Post on Thursday in a Twitter direct message.
"If Colorado College is prepared to suspend this kid," Williams added, "what's to say they would not suspend a [Black Lives Matter] activist whose speech makes a white student uncomfortable?"
Williams elaborated more in his Facebook post:
Racism on college campuses is real - we should be focussing on people putting nooses at the doors of black kids, people shouting the N word (the -er form) at black students, people who engage in behavior that legitimately threatens students on the basis of race. This is not racism, this is a lapse in good judgement that is hardly uncommon amongst college kids.
I don't defend his remark, nor does he himself in his correspondence to the Dean - he himself takes responsibility and appreciates his actions have consequences. I find it outrageous that he would be suspended for this - this is the collegiate equivalent of life in prison (expulsion being the death penalty). This is a conversation, this is having him go meet with a professor focussing on black history to learn more about prejudice, this is a conversation. This is a failure of leadership and faux PC outrage on the part of College leadership.
Williams responded to some comments on his post, rejecting one person's suggestion that white people will be the "next victims of systemic racism."
"I have stood against bigotry towards gay people, Muslims, racism in all forms," Williams wrote. "I've stood against idiotic suspensions of kids for quoting innocuously short verses of scripture or for briefly praying or making the cross in the ends zone after a touchdown. To be credible, I must call foul when big charges like these are leveled with no basis."
In his exchange with HuffPost, Williams referred to a Fox News video he had tweeted about earlier in the day, which showed conservative filmmaker Ami Horowitz asking people on Yale University's campus to sign a petition to repeal the First Amendment.
"This is all part of the infantilizing of college students -- when I see a guy from Fox able to get 50 kids at Yale to sign a petition to repeal the 1st Amendment to make the 'Constitution on giant safe space,'" Williams said. "I also wonder how we haven't taught them that Dr. [Martin Luther] King and his closest allies were jailed on multiple occasions for what might be called 'micro aggressions' that made white folk back in the day uncomfortable."