NEW YORK — A Columbia University student who screamed “We’re white men! We did everything!” in a widely shared video said Tuesday that he is not a white supremacist or a racist.
Julian von Abele in an emailed statement that he was “theatrically and sarcastically demonstrating that whites are not allowed to embrace their cultural achievements” during the exchange with other students early Sunday.
A video filmed by a bystander shows von Abele shouting to a group of mostly black students that “White people are the best thing to ever happen to the world.”
His voice cracks as he yells, “We invented science and industry and you want to tell us to stop because, ‘Oh my God, we’re so bad!'”
The other students push back in the video, with one calling him a “degenerate.”
University administrators released a statement Sunday denouncing the “racially charged incident” and calling the footage “alarming.” They said in a further statement Monday that the incident would be “investigated thoroughly, beginning with interviews of witnesses.”
The Columbia officials said they were in the process of creating a working group on bias incidents.
Members of Columbia’s Black Students’ Organization said in a Facebook post that they were discussing actions to take as a community “to make sure that we can come together with a common narrative/message and have a plan of what we want to come from this incident.”
Von Abele, a sophomore physics major, said he did not assault anyone or “denigrate anyone’s race” during the exchange that started outside Columbia’s Butler Library at about 4 a.m. Sunday.
He said he was reacting to “the divisive rhetoric that blames all the ills of society on white men.” He added, “I regret that I subsequently engaged in an exchange that was admittedly overzealous and was not the right venue to discuss the value of identity politics.”