The Columbia University undergraduate student who was captured on video incoherently ranting about his own racial superiority (while harassing a group of primarily black peers) has stepped forward to defend himself. Sophomore Julian von Abele said in a statement that he doesn't believe he is racist or a white supremacist, and said his words were taken out of context: "I was tired of the divisive rhetoric that blames all the ills of society on white men," he said in a statement provided to The Daily Beast.
Von Abele also revealed that he is a Trump supporter, and the heated exchange began "when several students were accusing Trump supporters of encouraging sexual violence.”
"I explained that I am a Trump supporter and I do not in any way encourage violence, sexual or otherwise," he said. "A large group of students gathered around me and told me that I had no right to share my views on women as I’m a white male with 'white privilege.'"
— Aala (@aalanasir) December 9, 2018
In the video, which was posted to Twitter on Sunday, von Abele declares, "White people are the best thing that happened to the world. We're white men. We did everything!" As the people around him pushed back at his statements, he could be seen jumping around erratically, flailing his arms, and screaming: "We invented science and industry and you want to tell us to stop because ‘Oh my God, we’re so bad.'" Echoing the Proud Boys slogan—"Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world"—he went on to assert that "we invented the modern world" and "built modern civilization."
In his statement, von Abele disputed the characterization of him as a racist: "I am not a white supremacist or racist, nor do I subscribe to any views that support that ideology. I unequivocally denounce all groups that support racism,” he said. "My reaction that evening grew out of my distaste for the overuse of the term 'white privilege' and similar divisive rhetoric as a means of dismissing views of others."
Instead, von Abele believes "every single person should love themselves and love their culture, and we should all be allowed to be proud of our heritage." He was able to recognize that the forum for the "discussion" was perhaps not the best: "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."
What von Abele does not address is allegations he harassed the other students that night, following them around campus and instigating the argument. According to witnesses who spoke with the Columbia Spectator, von Abele followed the group from Butler Library to JJ's Place, where he continued to berate them with unprompted declarations of white supremacy. Kwolanne Felix, one of the students in the group, posted on Twitter that he "went out of his way to harass groups of black people who were minding their business. And continued to instigate and followed us after we left!"
Instead, von Abele insisted his rhetorical tactics were purposefully obnoxious and meant to rile people up, a la Fox News talking head: "The rhetoric I used to prove a point sounded as if I feel that whites are better than other races, while really, I was theatrically and sarcastically demonstrating that whites are not allowed to embrace their cultural achievements," he said. "The out-of-context video widely circulated was not representative of my general argument that evening, which was not that white men were solely responsible for the scientific accomplishments of the world, but instead that the great things western culture has accomplished throughout history should not be ignored to accommodate identity politics."
"At no time did I shove, grab, or physically or verbally assault anyone, nor did I denigrate anyone’s race," he added. "I apologize for going over the top, and I emphasize that my reaction was not one of hate."
In a statement on Monday, Columbia issued a statement denouncing the "racially charged incident," and vowing to create a "working group on bias incidents" under the university's existing Inclusion and Belonging Task Force. "Statements of white racial superiority conflict with the University’s core value of inclusivity as well as the educational work and research that take place on our campuses," the university added.