- Marxist professor of sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder
- Defender of Professor Ward Churchill
- Considers the United States to be a nation whose history is an uninterrupted narrative of bigotry and imperialistic aggression
- “The underlying source of the attack upon the World Trade Center is not Islamic fundamentalism but imperialist domination.”
- Believes that America’s dealings with the Muslim world have been marked exclusively by injustice and exploitation – the alleged seeds of Muslim anti-Americanism and the animating force behind 9/11
- Supports the Rosenberg Fund for Children
Born in September 1937 in Frankfurt, Germany, Tom Mayer is a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado (UC) at Boulder. He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Oberlin College in 1959 and a Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University in 1964. He has taught sociology ever since (from 1964-1969 at the University of Michigan, and from 1969 to the present at UC Boulder.
After fellow UC professor Ward Churchill came under fire in 2005 for his anti-American essay “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” Mayer rushed to Churchill’s defense. Mayer shares Churchill's belief that the United States is a nation whose history is essentially an uninterrupted narrative of bigotry and imperialistic aggression. And, like Churchill, Mayer loathes capitalism, which he (as a Marxist) views as the principal cause of human suffering throughout the world. During Churchill's ordeal, Mayer depicted his beleaguered colleague as an eloquent voice of truth seeking to rally resistance against America's purportedly intransigent evil.
In a piece titled "The Vendetta Against Ward Churchill," Mayer wrote:
"Ward Churchill is a politically committed intellectual in the mold of Rosa Luxemburg, W.E.B. DuBois, Jean-Paul Sartre, Linus Pauling, Edward Said, and Noam Chomsky. Churchill has influenced how we think about indigenous people. In particular he has compelled us to entertain three interrelated propositions: (1) The genocide of indigenous people is not just a regrettable episode of bygone times, but an ongoing political and ecological reality. (2) The principal force behind this ongoing genocide is the voracious appetite of advanced capitalist societies for both profit and consumption. (3) Most Americans have, in one way or another, collaborated in the destruction of indigenous peoples and cultures. Thus Americans are likely to be targeted when forceful resistance movements emerge."
On another occasion, Mayer wrote of Churchill:
"Ward's writing and lectures illuminate the social conditions that made possible the genocide of the Native American people. His work also reveals the enduring influence of this genocide on American political culture. One such influence is the deep-seated conviction that Americans are better than other people, and that the United States is thus entitled to intervene economically or militarily virtually anywhere. Another belief at least partially traceable to the genocide of Native Americans is the idea that only American lives matter, and that death or destruction of foreign people is of no moral consequence. The insidious power of these prejudices in today's world is entirely obvious."
From his belief that the U.S. had brought the world's wrath upon itself, it was but a short logical leap for Mayer to assert that the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks were not of an overtly aggressive nature, but rather were defensive countermeasures against U.S.-perpetrated aggression and exploitation. "The underlying source of the attack upon the World Trade Center is not Islamic fundamentalism but imperialist domination," he explained.
"The bombing of the World Trade Center emerges from more than five decades of history," Mayer wrote in 2001, "a history which most Americans do not know about or would prefer to forget. During the last twenty years alone, the United States bombed Libya, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, and Yugoslavia. These direct applications of American military force are only the tip of the interventionist iceberg…. [T]he policies of the United States towards the Middle East since World War Two have provoked more than the usual anger among many Middle Eastern people. These policies include ruthless preoccupation with oil, almost carte blanche support of Israel, indifference to the welfare of Arab people … To millions of people in the region from Morocco to Afghanistan, the perpetrators of [the 9/11] massacre were not conscienceless fanatics, but brave soldiers trying to avenge the humiliation of Middle Eastern societies."
Because Mayer viewed 9/11 as an entirely logical response to America's persistent depredations, he opposed military retribution against Afghanistan's Taliban regime which for years had harbored al Qaeda leaders and the terrorist training camps they oversaw. Moreover, he was of the opinion that military actions could produce no lasting beneficial outcomes.
In a September 17, 2001 article titled "An Appropriate Response," Mayer wrote, "Violence alone will not prevent any large collectivity from committing violence." He outlined his belief that 9/11 should be dealt with as a criminal-justice, rather than a military, matter. He suggested that the correct course of action would include "apprehending the living persons directly responsible for the World Trade Center atrocity (likely a small group)"; "reevaluating -- and hopefully changing -- the policies that systematically antagonize people of the Middle East"; and "retreating from the arrogant unilateralism characteristic of America's international role in the recent past."
Mayer opposed not only U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq. In February 2003 he participated in a "Books Not Bombs" teach-in with a number of fellow Colorado faculty and staff who spoke against the looming Iraq War and U.S. foreign policy generally. A member of North Boulder Progressives, Mayer in September 2005 co-organized a petition drive calling for the removal of the U.S. military from Iraq within six months.
On the domestic front, Mayer views the United States as a nation rife with racism, a perspective he makes clear to his students at UC. "I have spoken to my classes about the concept of white privilege, by which I mean the automatic advantages a white person gets by being white," says Mayer. In a November 2005 article titled "White Privilege Is Real, So Come Learn About It," Mayer elaborates:
"Consider an example of white privilege, the privilege of staying alive. According to the most recently available statistics, a white baby born in the United States can expect to live 5.5 years longer than a black baby.... Most of the health and mortality gaps between white and black people apparently result from the stress imposed upon African Americans by living in a society saturated with racism."
In April 2002 Mayer hosted, in his home, a fundraising reception for the Rosenberg Fund for Children, a foundation headed by Robert Meeropol, the youngest son of the convicted spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.