The San Diego Community College District on Monday canceled its upcoming inauguration of Chancellor Carlos Cortez due to controversy over the controversial positions of keynote speaker Alice Walker, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Color Purple.” .
The inauguration, a public celebration of the inauguration of a new chancellor, was scheduled to take place at Petco Park on May 31. The district said about 1,000 people had made reservations to attend the ceremony.
“Over the past several weeks, concerns have been raised about the political beliefs and writings of keynote inaugural speaker Alice Walker,” Cortez said in a statement. “At the same time, others have expressed their support for Ms Walker. As a district that celebrates inclusion, we believe the best course of action would be to cancel the event altogether.
“I apologize for the pain caused to any member of our community. The investiture scheduled for May 31 will not take place.
Cortez, reached Monday night at a family event in Florida, declined to discuss the matter with the Union-Tribune.
Some district faculty and San Diego Jewish community figures objected to Walker’s booking, saying she publicly supported a fellow writer who made false and demeaning remarks about Jewish people.
They were referring to David Icke, author and conspiracy theorist. He wrote “And the Truth Shall Set You Free”, a 1995 book which says, in one passage, “I firmly believe that a small Jewish clique that despises the mass of the Jewish people worked with non-Jews to create the first world”. The war, the Russian Revolution and the Second World War.
“They then dominated the Versailles Peace Conference and created the circumstances that made World War II inevitable. They financed Hitler in power in 1933 and made the funds available for his rearmament.
Inna Glaz Kanevsky, professor of psychology at San Diego Mesa College, which is part of the district, told Cortez in an email in early May: “To this day, I have still not seen you give any acknowledgment to Mrs. Alice Walker (‘s) vocal and proud endorsement of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including a poem she wrote and posted on her website.
“This poem is inherently violently anti-Semitic, rooted in ideas that have led to countless pogroms, synagogue shootings and acts of vandalism.
“This, by the way, is not about his criticism of Israel and his support for the Palestinians. His anti-Semitism is enmeshed in his advocacy, but it’s a separate issue nonetheless — and one you still refuse to address publicly.
Walker, who is 78, has strongly and publicly denied being anti-Semitic.
The cancellation of the nomination represents a sharp turnaround for the district, which said in a statement in early May: “(She) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and her participation is consistent with the district’s support for the free exchange of ideas and opinions.
“That doesn’t mean the District agrees with every statement she’s made now or in the past. Walker is an inspiration to many in the community. That includes Chancellor Carlos Cortez, who says Walker played a key role in her decision to focus her college studies on African-American feminist political history.
The cancellation drew praise on Monday from Peter Levi of the Anti-Defamation League.
“The ADL congratulates Chancellor Cortez on rescinding the nomination,” said Levi, who represents San Diego County on an interim basis. “A speaker should bring people together, not divide and alienate a community.”