The View

‘Toxic masculinity,’ ‘culture of racism’ killed Daniel Prude, UB law professor says


Published September 10, 2020

headshot of Athena Mutua.
“It is time to wind down our prioritization and commitment to institutions of violence and punitive punishment and invest in healthy, sustainable and resilient communities. If this environment had existed when Mr. Prude fell ill, perhaps he would be alive today. ”
Athena Mutua, professor of law and Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar
School of Law

Daniel Prude “encountered the coercive arm of the state trained in violence,” says UB law school faculty member Athena D. Mutua.

“Consequently, police actions involved violence and the reckless disregard for Mr. Prude’s well-being,” says Mutua, a member of the New York State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

What Prude — a 41-year-old Black man who died last March while in police custody in Rochester — needed and deserved were “unarmed emergency medical technicians and community mental health professionals trained in crisis services,” she says.

Mutua, the School of Law’s Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar who teaches business and civil rights, says she stands in solidarity with the Prude family and “those in protest calling for justice on behalf of Mr. Daniel Prude and all the other Black and brown people disproportionally killed by police.”

Prude was having a mental health emergency on March 23 when officers covered his head with a “spit sock” and held him on the ground in a prone position before he stopped breathing. He was declared brain dead and died a week later. His death has spurred fierce protests in Rochester following the release of police body camera video earlier this month.

“Our government, at all levels, spends an obscene amount of money on forces of violence — police, prisons, ICE, the military — state apparatuses that have been the source of tremendous violence both here and abroad,” Mutua says.

“Further, these forces are steeped in and represent a culture of racism, militarism and materialism, as Dr. King commented over 50 years ago, as well as a toxic masculinity borne of a white patriarchal system in which sexism, heterosexism and genderism are embedded. Yet we are told that communities of color should call upon and submit to the armed police occupation of our neighborhoods in order to keep us safe,” she says.

Mutua says she knows “safe” communities when she sees them.

“And they are not occupied by armed forces; rather they are well resourced,” she says. “In contrast to what government spends on institutions of violence, it puts precious few resources of our socially produced collective and inherited wealth into building strong, resilient communities — communities in which individuals are trained and rewarded for helping to meet their communities’ basic needs. In fact, like wages, investment in communities has stagnated over several decades and has done so in the face of exploding police budgets, despite declining crime rates,” she says.

“It is time to wind down our prioritization and commitment to institutions of violence and punitive punishment, and invest in healthy, sustainable and resilient communities,” Mutua says. “If this environment had existed when Mr. Prude fell ill, perhaps he would be alive today.”


I am more than a little concerned with the article “Toxic masculinity killed Daniel Prude.”

Professor Mutua engages in blatantly hateful speech against a Title 9 protected group of students: namely, our student soldiers and veterans.

To suggest that our students who serve or have served in our nation’s uniform services represent a “culture of violence” is both obscene and ignorant.

I highly doubt the professor ever served in our nation’s military, nor understands the courage that defending our nation demands for all of our military-affiliated students.

We have many veterans on campus. All have served or are serving with dignity and valor.

Shame on UB for allowing this hateful drivel to be published, along with the “smiling face of academic smugness” as an insulting add-on at the end of the article. While she smiles away for the camera, our student soldiers protect her from our adversaries.


I highly suggest that the professor get to know a few of our military-affiliated students. Indeed, there are a few in her own academic unit. They are indeed our nation’s, and UB’s, finest.

Michael Hatton