On Christmas Eve, George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor of history and politics at Philadelphia-based Drexel University, set social media ablaze after he tweeted, "All I want for Christmas is white genocide."
The following day, he attempted to explain himself: "To clarify, when the whites were massacred during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed." But after his tweet, the hashtag #WhiteGenocide quickly began to spread throughout social media.
Shortly after Ciccariello-Maher's remarks, he made his Twitter account private. Though he argued that his tweets were satirical, it was not a laughing matter for Drexel University officials. In a news release, Drexel University said it was "taking this situation very seriously."
"While the University recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher's comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University," Drexel added.
But according to Reuters, Ciccariello-Maher announced on Dec. 27 that Drexel University supports "his right to take part in political debate." He told Reuters that Drexel administrators "reiterated their support for faculty who participate in vigorous public debate, as well as concern for the safety of myself, my family and others in this unpredictable post-election climate."
In the wake of this announcement, some Twitter users expressed their contempt. "Ppl getting fired for dumb posts since MySpace, but @ciccmaher tweets #WhiteGenocide and NOW it's time to defend speech? #Shenanigans."
The public outcry led Ciccariello-Maher to offer an explanation to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "For those who haven't bothered to do their research, 'white genocide' is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked and I'm glad to have mocked it."
In fact, "white genocide" is considered a conspiracy theory, heavily promoted by the so-called alt-right and popularized by South Carolina segregationist Bob Whitaker, who said that miscegenation and mass immigration from "the third world" might lead to white people "losing their majority status in U.S. and European populations" in the future, according to the Atlantic.
Some scholars believe that avoiding the discussion on "white genocide" is dangerous in a Trump era, as political science associate professor Joseph Lowndes at University of Oregon, Eugene, told AlterNet: "This phrase and its broad dissemination these days is helping shape what Trumpism is politically. ... We should mock it, expose it and delegitimize it," he said.
Many on social media sprung to Ciccariello-Maher's defense, pointing out the irony of the backlash against his statements. One Twitter user stated, "White people crying 'white genocide' in a predominantly white country made possible by white people committing genocide."
Other Twitter users chimed in to define what the term "white genocide" really means. "'White People' is a construction created to consolidate power. The fear of "white genocide" is not about mass murder, but the loss of power."
One Twitter user wrote: "Privileged white folks love crying about 'white genocide.'"
On the other hand, some Twitter users defended the "white genocide" theory. "Europe is for whites it was built and defended by whites. My family built and died for part of it. Why should we give it away. #WhiteGenocide."
Still others said the conversation on white genocide is necessary. "A few years ago almost no one was talking about #WhiteGenocide," a Twitter user posted. "Now everyone is. The conversation has changed in a big way. Keep pushing."