Vanderbilt Law School Professor Carol Swain made a media splash — especially in right-wing media — with a weekend appearance on CNN in which she called Black Lives Matter “a very destructive force” that is “misleading black people” and “needs to go.” Swain said she hopes that the killing of Dallas police officers will spell the end of the movement, which she dismissed as “pure Marxism” because its website uses “buzzwords” like “state violence.”
That was bad enough, but Swain went even further, downplaying the value of video evidence in investigations of the recent shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. She challenged the credibility of Castile’s girlfriend, who streamed video of him dying just after having been shot by police, because her phone also included video of the couple smoking marijuana.
Not surprisingly, her remarks generated criticism, to which Swain responded on Facebook that the Black community is “being exploited and manipulated by the liberal left” and asserting, “Truth and a return to God will help liberate blacks.”
Who is this Carol Swain?
Swain is an academic and author who won awards for her 1993 book “Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress,” and generated some respectful controversy with her 2002 “The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration.” But her more recent writings, like 2011’s “Be the People,” have been more along the lines of right-wing agitprop.
Earlier this year she was named to the Ted Cruz campaign’s “Religious Liberty Advisory Council” and appeared on Christian-nation activist David Barton’s “Foundations of Freedom” series. She told Barton that problems in the judiciary result from judges being “educated at institutions where they come out as secular humanists, and so there’s no fear of God.”
In 2013, Swain appeared at the right-wing Heritage Foundation on a panel featuring conservative evangelicals who were opposed to their fellow evangelicals promoting comprehensive immigration reform. “We’re welcoming people who totally reject who we are as a people,” and said, adding that we create problems for ourselves “if we bring in people who are not easily assimilated.” She declared, “There is no place in America for Sharia law in the U.S. Constitution.”
In advance of that Heritage Foundation event, we published a bit more about Swain and her writings:
Swain is a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who has edited books on immigration and white nationalism. She has created a non-profit group to help her promote her conservative views. When she showered praise on a “documentary” film called “A Conversation About Race,” the Southern Poverty Law Center called her “an apologist for white supremacists.” She and her supporters at the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies lambasted SPLC – she calls it a hate group that “harasses conservatives” – but even her fans at the Wall Street Journal, which came to her defense, found parts of the film “inflammatory and invidious.” And they noted that on immigration, Swain’s views “are closer to Lou Dobbs’s than to ours.”
Swain’s most recent book, 2011’s Be the People, places her firmly in the right-wing activist camp. She says the book is “a call to action for We the People to reclaim our nation’s faith and promise.” The blurbs at the front of Be the People let you know what you’re in for. Among the right-wing stars praising the book are Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Tony Perkins, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Robert George, Harry Jackson, and Jesse Lee Peterson.
No wonder they love Swain: she writes respectfully of those who question President Obama’s faith and about birthers – she calls the term itself “pejorative” and an “epithet. Part of the book is a Christian-nation screed that would make David Barton proud. “We are engaged in a battle for the soul of our nation,” she writes. She slams the Supreme Court’s rulings on separation of church and state, saying, “The expulsion of God from public schools was a blow to civil religion and a clear repudiation of what Jesus proclaimed to be the greatest commandment.”
She cites Stephen Keillor, who says the 9/11 attacks might have been God’s judgment against the United States, which we well deserve. “We are being confronted with numerous national disasters and freak weather patterns. Could some of these occurrences be related to our decision to reject biblical injunctions against abortion, greed, homosexuality, fornication, and adultery?” While Swain calls her book a “rallying cry” for people to get involved, she also says it may be too late for America to escape God’s wrath for having violated the covenant its founders made with God. “Accept the fact that no matter what Christians and other believers do, it may be too late to save the United States of America….As it stands, we do not know if judgment has been determined for our nation.”
In the chapter on immigration reform, Swain mentions testifying on immigration before a congressional committee. She was outnumbered on the panel, she says, but was encouraged by friendly faces like those of Reps. Steve King and Lamar Smith. She writes, “In light of the high unemployment in the US, no sensible argument can be made for legalizing millions of undocumented persons currently holding jobs to which they are not entitled.”
Swain also takes on the interpretation of scripture by pro-reform evangelicals, saying that the “stranger” in Old Testament injunctions does not apply to people in the U.S. illegally. She even impugns Catholic leaders for supporting immigration reform efforts, suggesting they are motivated by a desire to boost church membership. Among the specific proposals in her definition of reform are that Congress should “flex its muscles” and legislatively close the “loophole” of birthright citizenship under the 14thamendment.
In May, Swain wrote that the publisher Charisma House had abruptly cancelled the publication of her most recent book, “Who’s Stealing Our Kids? Revealing the Hidden Agenda to Secularize Our Children,” written with Steve Feazel, saying that she suspected “politics was involved.” In a comment on her post announcing the cancellation, she suggested that some people might be upset because even though she had voted for Cruz, she had been defending Donald Trump. From the product description at CBN:
We are living in a post-Christian America, where morality has been supplanted by a cultural relativism that threatens the future of our children and grandchildren. Increasingly we appear to be on the losing side of a cultural war. The resulting moral erosion is growing in our schools, our colleges, our entertainment media, our news media, our halls of justice, and rapidly reshaping our culture by altering the values of our children.