HARLEM — A Rutgers University professor infamously posted on social media that he hates white people, even though he's white himself, and his racial post has been shared, reposted and reported on worldwide, but the educator who made the comment has not spoken out about it publicly, until now.
“Why am I doing this? This is the question,” professor James Livingston, of Rutgers University, said when PIX11 News spoke with him on Wednesday.
He was at his favorite restaurant, Harlem Shake, where some of the youngest customers were the subject of the social media post that’s resulted in Livingston having received hundreds of emails, texts, and messages, few of which have been positive.
Livingston’s Facebook post on May 31 began, “Okay, officially, I now hate white people.”
He went on to write that at Harlem Shake that evening, the restaurant was "overrun with little Caucasian a**holes who know their parents will approve of anything they do."
Fast forward to now, and Livingston is contemplative about his social media rant, but not apologetic.
"That was ironic, facetious," he said. "I was trying to, you know, be funny. But look, there's a serious intent behind every satirical statement."
According to people who'd also been at the restaurant the evening that Livingston made his post, a group of white children were there that night with at least one adult, who had appeared to be the children's teacher. The children were playing, talking and singing, according to witnesses.
Livingston's description on Facebook looked at the scene differently.
"Slide around the floor, you little sh**head, sing loudly, you unlikely moron. Do what you want, nobody here is gonna restrict your right to be white," he wrote.
Two weeks later, the author of a half dozen books said that he had been making a social statement.
"It was my way of... making fun of gentrification," Livingston said, "but it's not very funny."
Gentrification, he said, is a serious issue, even as he acknowledged that he's part of Harlem's gentrification. Online, he said, more than 200 people and counting have contacted him in response to his Facebook post. Most, he said, have not written in support of him.
"I would say 98 percent of the emails and messages I've received tell me that I'm the racist," he said. "And that I should go f*** myself, and lots of other things."
On Tuesday, the tenured professor of history posted on Facebook that someone whose social media handle is "Beefy Tips" had threatened bodily harm to him. He'd dared the messenger to meet him at Harlem Shake at noon on Wednesday.
That's where PIX11 News encountered Livingston, but nobody else was in sight, except for a former student of Livingston's, who'd volunteered to observe and record any encounter the professor and Beefy Tips might have, especially if the latter carried out his threats.
The professor waited a full hour for his anonymous intimidator, but Beefy Tips was a no-show.
"F*** him," Livingston said about the person who'd tried in vain to intimidate him. "That's why I showed up here for that a**hole who threatened me via email. He threatened my life. That f***head."
The idle threat was nonetheless a reminder that Livingston's "I Hate White People" Facebook post has created challenges. Facebook removed the post, and hate mail and other issues still follow Livingston.
"This is going to get me into a huge heap of trouble, I'm sure," he said.
The university is considering taking disciplinary action against him.
Harlem Shake, for its part, pointed out in a statement that it values all of its customers, but does not endorse Livingston's comments.
"For the past five years and counting, Harlem Shake has been and continues to be an active member of the diverse and evolving Harlem community and beyond," the restaurant's founder Jelena Pasic and Dardra Coaxum, her business partner, said in a statement.
"We proudly have diverse ownership, staff and most importantly, customers! Every day we serve men women and children from across the globe and mostly from our beloved Harlem community. Thank you Harlem for being our home and we are proud to serve you all!"
The restaurant gave PIX11 News full access to its facility at 124th Street and Lenox Avenue for this story.
As for Livingston, he said that there's a lesson in all of this -- for him and for others.
"There's no such thing as reverse racism," said the man who's been accused of it online. "Racism is about power. It's not about hate. If you have power over [someone] and you're a white person, that's racism.
"White people have exercised power over black people for, what, four centuries? So when I say I hate white people, all I'm saying is, 'Enough already.'"