* Co-founded the Crunk Feminist Collective blog in 2010
* Believes that America and its criminal-justice system are thoroughly infused with racism
* Embraces the tenets of Critical Race Theory
* Has contempt for Donald Trump and conservatives
* Detests white people
Born in Ruston, Louisiana in 1980, Brittney Cooper graduated from Howard University in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science. She later earned a master’s degree in English (2007) and a Ph.D. in American Studies (2009) – both at Emory University.
From 2009-2012, Cooper served as an assistant professor of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama. From 2011-2012 she was a Ford Foundation Fellow at Rutgers University, where she has been a faculty member ever since. Among the courses Cooper has taught are: Introduction to Women’s Studies, Black Feminist Thought, Feminist Research Methods, Hip Hop Feminism, and Black Intellectual Thought.
From June 2013 until April 2016, Cooper wrote regularly for the left-wing website Salon. Her Salon articles focused heavily on the racism of white people, police, and Christian fundamentalists. Some examples:
(1) On July 4, 2013, Cooper penned an article for Salon in which she related an anecdote alleging that on one occasion years earlier, a white woman sitting next to her on an airplane had sent someone a private text message in which she referred to Cooper as “a big fat nigger.” Wrote Cooper in the article:
“As we boarded, I noticed that this mom and I would be sitting in the same row, I in the window seat, she in the center. As we sat awaiting takeoff, I finished a text conversation and signaled to the flight attendant for a seat-belt extender, a fat passenger’s best friend. Then just as the call came to shut our phones off, I glanced over at her [the mom], and she was still texting, rapidly. I caught a few words of the end of her text that made me look more intently: ‘on the plane, sitting thigh to thigh with a big fat nigger. Lucky me.’”
In that same Salon piece, Cooper wrote that the aforementioned incident had occurred while she was traveling for the Fourth of July — a holiday which, by her telling, commemorates “America’s ever-unfulfilled narrative of liberty and justice for all.” The “white lady” cited in the anecdote, Cooper added, was the embodiment of “all the trappings of American middle-class respectability.” Cooper also claimed that the incident represented merely the proverbial tip of a racism iceberg:
“And that is the thing about American holidays: All too frequently they misdirect the focus and confuse the narrative, so that the villains are seen as benevolent and the victims are seen as the aggressors. Thanksgiving, the day that the nation memorializes the genocide of Natives, while giving thanks for generations of wealth built on the plunder of their lands, is a case in point. The ways that American holidays normalize the kinds of routine violence that have given birth to this republic make counter holidays like Juneteenth, the day we commemorate the actual end of all U.S. slavery, so necessary.”
(2) In August 2013, Cooper authored another Salon article entitled “Memo to Police: No, You’re Not Making Us Feel Safe!” In this piece, she condemned politicians from both major political parties for having established a “culture obsessed with using state force to maintain law and order.” Cooper also lambasted American society in general for allegedly promoting a “culture of fear”:
“White people fear black and brown people. The police, no matter their color, treat us as a credible threat not only to white people, but to them, and to each other. Therefore, black and brown people fear the police. These fears are only exacerbated by neoliberal economic policies, a shrinking middle class, declining global reverence for American imperialism, and the global policing of brown people through the Obama administration’s use of drone warfare.”
(3) In a February 2014 article in Salon, Cooper suggested that the very notion that a “post-racial America” was even close to becoming a reality, was nothing more than a “dangerous lie”:
“Post-racial thinking is insidious not only because it gives lie to the very real and continuing material consequences of racism in this country, but also because it seduces young, optimistic, idealistic black youth into identifying with the very systems and people who would kill them without a second thought — and then go order a pizza and a take a nap.”
(4) In a May 2014 Salon article, Cooper, citing a recent multiple murder committed by a young white man, warned that “white male privilege might be considered a mental health issue”:
“Another young white guy has decided that his disillusionment with his life should become somebody else’s problem. On Saturday, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger … went on a killing spree on the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara, murdering his three roommates, shooting women outside a sorority house, and hitting people with his car as he attempted to get away from police. How many times must troubled young white men engage in these terroristic acts that make public space unsafe for everyone before we admit that white male privilege kills?”
Cooper further explained white male violence as a reflexive rebellion against the fact that America had recently elected its first black president:
“In the era of Barack Obama, we have endured a mass temper tantrum from white men that includes a mind-boggling war on women, with an unprecedented rollback of the gains of the women’s rights movement, and an attempt to decimate whole communities of color, which are disproportionately poor, through school privatization, mass incarceration (which began long before the Obama era) and the gutting of the social safety net.”
(5) In August 2014 in Salon, Cooper likened her experience as a black American to “the struggles of Palestinians in Gaza”:
“Still, black people know what it means to live under the shadow of limited resources, constant surveillance, random acts of state-based violence that go unpunished, and fear of violence from people who look like you, because those people have become the most severe victims of systematic privation and the desperation and nihilism and, yes, violence, it breeds…. The same kind of nuance, the same hermeneutic of suspicion, the same ethic of care, that frames our understanding of black suffering and violence — unchecked policing, nonexistent economic opportunity, mass incarceration — in this political moment in the U.S. should frame our understanding of Gaza’s relationship to Israel. America’s sordid history of settler colonialism, slavery, mass incarceration and other racially driven social ills teaches us a lot about why our country identifies with Israel and it teaches us everything we need to know about why we shouldn’t.”
(6) In an April 2015 Salon piece, Cooper articulated her fierce opposition to the state of Indiana’s recent passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which, according to the Indianapolis Star, held that “[g]overnment cannot infringe on a person’s ability to practice his or her religion unless the government can prove it has a compelling reason for doing so.” Cooper warned that this legislation would inevitably be exploited by conservatives to pursue “another round of backward time travel, to the supposedly idyllic environs of the 1950s, wherein women, and gays, and blacks knew their respective places and stayed in them.” Moreover, she explained that her view of Christianity bore no resemblance to that of conservative white Christians:
“Nothing about the cultural and moral regime of the religious right in this country signals any kind of freedom. In fact, this kind of legislation [RFRA] is rooted in a politics that gives white people the authority to police and terrorize people of color, queer people and poor women. That means these people don’t represent any kind of Christianity that looks anything like the kind that I practice….
“I often ask myself whether I really do worship the same God of white religious conservatives. On this Holy Week, when I reflect on the Christian story of Christ crucified, it is a story to me of a man who came, radically served his community, challenged the unjust show of state power, embraced children, working-class men and promiscuous women and sexual minorities (eunuchs). Of the many things Jesus preached about, he never found time to even mention gay people, let alone condemn them….
“This is why I identify with the story of Jesus. And frankly, it is the only story there really is. This white, blond-haired, blue-eyed, gun-toting, Bible-quoting Jesus of the religious right is a god of their own making. I call this god, the god of white supremacy and patriarchy. There is nothing about their god that speaks to me as a Black woman of working-class background living in a country where police routinely murder black men and beat the hell out of black women, where the rich get richer while politicians find ever more reasons to extract from the poor, and where the lives the church imagines for women still center around marriage and motherhood, and no sex if you’re single.
“This God isn’t the God that I serve. There is nothing holy, loving, righteous, inclusive, liberatory or theologically sound about him. He might be ‘biblical’ but he’s also an asshole.
“The Jesus I know, love, talk about and choose to retain was a radical, freedom-loving, justice-seeking, potentially queer (because he was either asexual or a priest married to a prostitute), feminist healer, unimpressed by scripture-quoters and religious law-keepers, seduced neither by power nor evil.
“That’s the story I choose to reflect on this Holy Week. The Christian lawmakers seeking to use the law to discriminate against gay people are indicative of every violent, unrighteous, immoral impulse that organized religion continues to represent in this country…. [A]s I watch the religious right engineer pain and obstacles for queer people in America’s heartland, I find myself wishing that this particularly violent and vicious breed of Christianity would die off.
“I cannot stand in a church and worship on Sunday alongside those who on the very next Monday co-sign every kind of legislation that devalues the lives of Black people, women and gay people. I am a firm believer that our theology implicates our politics. If your politics are rooted in the contemporary anti-Black, misogynist, homophobic conservatism, then we are not serving the same God. Period.”
(7) After Donald Trump launched his bid for the U.S. presidency in the summer of 2015, Cooper wrote that “No one believes [he] is a serious presidential contender, but we should pay close attention to what it is about him that the conservative base finds so compelling.” She then proceeded to reveal the depth of her own raging contempt for people with conservative values: “Trump adamantly resists … demands for a more inclusive and representative democracy. He represents a feeling of safety for those white people who long for a return to the ‘way things were.’ And because of that, a Trump candidacy represents a serious threat to Black people for whom the recent past was deeply inhospitable and the present is increasingly unbearable.”
(8) In November 2015, Cooper penned another broadside against Trump and his supporters. Among the more noteworthy remarks in her article were the following:
(9) In a December 2, 2015 article in Salon, Cooper lamented America’s “racism and rampant inequality,” which she identified as factors that contributed mightily to the persistent “feelings of hopelessness” experienced by “Black youth.”
(10) In a December 9, 2015 article, Cooper wrote that because “the modern Republican Party has secured its base by pandering to the worst impulses of white male, working class, and white Christian fundamentalist rage,” “the GOP should understand Trump’s popularity as a case of their chickens coming home to roost.” “The GOP base,” she added, “is not merely racially ignorant; they are also prone to violence…. We should understand the Church, particularly the conservative evangelical church, as a breeding ground for white terrorism. White evangelicalism is the fundamentalist ideological arm of white social conservatism and of white American male terrorism.”
In the same piece, Cooper expanded upon the theme of white American injustice targeting racial and religious minorities:
“The story of 21st century U.S. state violence is not only a story of anti-Blackness. It is also a story of state-sanctioned Islamophobia that uses the tragic terroristic acts of 9/11 as a framework to mistreat Muslim Americans, and other Americans who appear to be of Arab or Middle Eastern descent….
“Using the extreme acts of a few to condemn the peaceful lives of the many is a hallmark of the American script of racism. White Americans do this to Black people when they suggest that Black intraracial violence justifies the overpolicing of all Black people. Americans do this to Muslims when we demand that key Islamic religious leaders step forward to quickly condemn the violence, so that we will not mistake lack of censure for allegiance….
“This is why we must begin to understand whiteness as a kind of violent fundamentalism, one at the heart of the American project…. Whiteness as a fundamentalist ideology frames all others as enemies of the project of white supremacy. It authorizes violence against all who divest from the project of whiteness. It uses a narrative of marginalization and the need to regain power (to take America back) to justify aggressive and violent acts towards non-white groups. And it values and seeks to perpetuate whiteness as a way of life.
“Until we dismantle white fundamentalism, no people of color will be safe…. [W]hite Americans respond so strongly to acts of Islamic terror and with such fear, because they recognize this same capacity for fundamentalist rage in themselves.”
(11) In a December 30, 2015 article titled “White Police Are Killing Black Kids,” Cooper wrote:
“Justice for Black people is not a systemic or structural priority. The priority is always to make sure that white citizens and white police officers make it home to their families. If this means that a few Black mothers and fathers every year don’t get to see their sons or daughters again, well, this is what it takes for the system to work.
“Blood born of Black death greases the wheels of the system. Spilled blood is the anointing oil that grants spiritual power to prosecutors and police who act as denizens of Black death.
“They are anointed for this work, this cyclical letting of Black blood, this cyclical forgetting of the value of Black life.”
In May 2017, Cooper released her first book, titled Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race and Women. According to a description by its publisher, University of Illinois Press, this book “charts the development of African American women as public intellectuals and the evolution of their thought from the end of the 1800s through the Black Power era of the 1970s.”
Also in 2017, Cooper co-authored and edited a book titled The Crunk Feminist Collection, a series of essays that originated on the The Crunk Feminist Collective, the blog which Cooper had co-founded in 2010. The 2017 book was published by The Feminist Press at City University of New York.
In February 2018, Cooper published yet another book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower. The author touched on the themes of that book during a National Public Radio discussion a year later, when she suggested that black women could empower themselves by harnessing their own anger: “Part of what I’m trying to get at is that black women are never only angry. We can be angry and at the same time be joyous, at the same time be sad, at the same time be deeply in love or be heartbroken. So rage for me becomes the ground zero for the reclamation of black women’s full emotional lives.”
“We are living in the Trump era, and look, those policies kill our people. You can’t get access to good health care, good insurance. The research says that black women, when we do the same diets as white women, we lose less weight, and we lose it slower. And what public health practitioners think is that our stress responses in the body change our metabolism. It’s literally that the racism that you’re experiencing and the struggle to make ends meet, actually means the diet don’t work for you the same.”
In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Cooper blamed President Trump and conservatives for the disease’s death toll in the black community. In a series of tweets which she posted on April 28th, she wrote:
Following the infamous death of George Floyd in May 2020, the Rutgers University Department of Africana Studies — where Cooper was an associate professor — characterized Floyd’s death as “another in a series of arbitrary killings of Black men, women, children, and transgender and other gender non-conforming persons by vigilantes and agents of the state with impunity.” Moreover, the department issued a statement identifying racism as a “comorbidity” that made blacks more prone to be severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that was sweeping the country:
“The confluence of a devastating global health pandemic and the grotesque killings of Black civilians catalyzed a national movement and resurgent demands to protect Black life. Protests have taken place across all fifty states as well as eighteen countries. Mayors declared curfews in fifteen cities as militarized law enforcement police deployed tear gas, rubber bullets, and tanks against unarmed protestors. Scotland imposed weapons sanctions prohibiting the transfer of tear gas to the United States and, shattering the fallacies of American exceptionalism, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, together with the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, requested the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate racism in US law enforcement and its relationship to legacies of slavery and colonialism.”
In September 2021, Cooper had an online discussion with Michael Harriot, a senior writer for The Root, an African American-oriented online magazine launched in 2008 by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Donald E. Graham. While discussing what she viewed as the merits of Critical Race Theory – which she described as “just the proper teaching of American history” – Copper stated that white people “didn’t discover America,” but had merely stumbled upon land already occupied by indigenous peoples against whom those whites promptly “committed acts of violence in order to make yourselves [themselves] seem superior.” Below are a number of additional noteworthy remarks by which Cooper disparaged white people, “white colonialism,” and the USA:
In November 2021, after news reports about Cooper’s incendiary remarks to The Root had sparked a wave of criticism aimed at her, Rutgers’ branch of the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) jointly issued a statement voicing their firm resolve to stand in “unequivocal solidarity with Dr. Cooper.” Describing Cooper as “a renowned and widely acclaimed scholar and public intellectual” whose remarks had been “grossly misrepresented” by the “smear[s]” of “a bad-faith media disinformation campaign,” the statement lamented that Cooper “has come under a renewed wave of racist attacks for her public scholarship.” “These forms of harassment,” the statement added, “are at once attacks directed at Professor Cooper’s person as well as part of a broader pattern of trying to silence people of color, and particularly Black women, through tactics of intimidation and harassment.”
The Rutgers University Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Faculty Caucus also issued a statement defending Cooper and describing criticisms of her as: (a) “part of a larger campaign of disinformation aimed at destroying social justice activism and anti-racist education,” and (b) reflective of “a historic pattern that transmutes white anxieties about the loss of hegemony into anti-Black violence.” “We urge the Rutgers administration and community,” said the Caucus members, “to reject the politics of white grievance and fear and to embrace the courageous vision of justice and commitment to institutional transformation that grounds the work of Professor Cooper and the other members of the BIPOC Faculty Caucus.”
As of December 2022, Cooper had an estimated net worth of approximately $5 million.