The racist graffiti at EMU, the subsequent protest, and the bigger picture

Last night, as a good many of us were glued to our computers, reading up on the details surrounding the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, the most recent unarmed black man known to have been killed by police in America, someone was apparently spray-painting racist graffiti outside of Eastern Michigan University’s King Hall, an administrative building which, among other things, houses the office of the Dean of Students. Here, from the Facebook feed of the Eastern Echo, is an image of the pro-KKK message that was left in red, white and blue.


Following is the statement sent out to faculty and staff this morning by EMU President James M. Smith.

A short time ago, we learned that racist graffiti had been spray painted on a wall of King Hall in the courtyard area of the building. The University strongly condemns such a racist and thoughtless act, which runs completely counter to the values and welcoming environment of our highly diverse Eastern Michigan University community. Our Department of Public Safety is undertaking a full and immediate investigation and the graffiti is being quickly removed. We are hopeful that security cameras in the nearby area will help provide evidence pointing to who may have perpetrated this action. We also are seeking any information from individuals who may have spotted anything unusual in the overnight or early morning hours in that area.

Rest assured, we will investigate this criminal act to our fullest abilities and will advise our campus community on our progress. Let me reiterate, we condemn this act in the strongest of terms and stand strong in our determination to identify the individual or individuals responsible, and then beyond this to address the broader issues in our community that such an action highlights. If you have any information about this incident, please contact our Department of Public Safety at 734-487-1222.

Judging from what I just read on Buzzfeed, some on campus, like Darius Simpson, who I interviewed not too long ago on the Saturday Six Pack about race issues at EMU, don’t feel as though President Smith went far enough in his statement. Simpson is quoted in the article as saying, “Don’t be impressed with the university’s response. All they said was ‘We’re not all racist’. They’re isolating this incident.” And, it would seem, based on photos I’ve seen of EMU students marching from campus to the President’s residence this afternoon, quite a few agree with Simpson. [I wasn’t at the march, which I’m told blocked both eastbound and westbound traffic along Washtenaw Avenue near the intersection with Hewitt, but I’m told that things got tense as some vehicles tried to make their way through the protestors. As I understand it, a lot of people were shooting video, so I imagine it’s just a matter of time before clips start showing up on social media, but I’ve yet to see anything so far.]

Like many, I’m tempted to think that the racism we’re seeing right now in America is, in large part, due to the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump, a man who came to national prominence as a politician by promoting so-called “birther” theories, calling into question whether or not Barack Obama, our first black president, was even really an American. The truth is, though, the roots of this run much deeper. The Klan, as we’ve discussed here before, was big in Ypsilanti in the 1920s. And I can still remember back in 2007, when it was brought to my attention that a white supremacist group was leaving flyers at the homes of my neighbors. Sure, things may have become more visible in the wake of Obama’s election, as the racists among us began to wake up to the fact that American demographics were shifting, and evidence of that deep-seated racism may be even more apparent now that Trump has given white Americans the permission to proudly affirm their biases in patriot terms, but the truth is, this ugliness has been around for a long, long time. And the students who are demanding that this requires more than just a cleaning crew and an investigation into who actually held the paint cans, are exactly right.

update: Well, that didn’t take long… Here’s video of the march showing an SUV forcing its way through the line of protestors. I’m still not exactly clear as to what happened, but I suspect someone will leave a comment before too long. Hopefully no one was injured.

update: And here’s a still photo from the Fox 2 News coverage of the protest.


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  1. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Good job SUV driver.

  2. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Where are the lines of protesters when someone is shot in Parkridge or West Willow? Some idiot paints some racist shit and that is grounds for a protest, but when people actually die, no one cares?

  3. kjc
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    and then there’s you, Dan, never caring at all but always with the faux outrage. you’re such a POS.

  4. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    good post kjc, as always.

  5. Lynne
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Well Dan, you see it is a different thing when someone gets shot in the course of the usual crimes you see in places and something like this which is a hate crime. Hate crimes are things where protests can make a difference.

    I ended up getting caught up in this traffic but by the time I reached the intersection, it was mostly dispersed and there were just a bunch of protesters on the sidewalk with their hands up and a bunch of cops, looking bored, watching them.

    And NOT good for that SUV driver. It sounds like she should be arrested or at least ticketed. I was as annoyed as anyone for being stuck in the traffic caused by this but my inconvenience is nothing compared to the crap they were protesting in the first place. I blame racists in our community for the traffic, not the protesters.

  6. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    So someone gets shot and killed and that is a “usual crime.” No big deal. Someone calls slanders a group and then we need to do something?

  7. Lynne
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    It isn’t so much that it isn’t a big deal to the people involved. Of course it is. But protests don’t generally do much to control crime rates and the attempts to focus on them are just a racists way of deflecting the issue away from the issue at hand. The usual crimes which are overwhelmingly due to things like interpersonal conflicts are different from hate crimes in that hate crimes terrorize entire groups of pepole. If my neighbor shoots his wife during an argument, I am not afraid he is going to come gun me down but if someone were to write “Kill fat middle aged white ladies” on a wall in the town where I live, I would be worried.

    Do you really not see the difference?

  8. iRobert
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    How is it an important issue when one lone moron gets a few cans of spray paint and does his best to rile people up? Shouldn’t the solution simply be to have a rapid-response team armed with paint thinner and a power washer? Then, the more vandals paint graffiti, the more often buildings and overpasses would be power-washed clean.

    That giant crowd could easily instead form that rapid-response team which would immediately eliminate the offending vandalism, and they’d be beautifying the city in the process.

    But, then, I guess the real purpose of these protests isn’t really to address and solve problems, is it.

  9. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink


    I’ve never said that you or anyone should not be concerned when someone paints hate messages in your town. I simply asked why this demanded a protest, when actual deaths in the community do not.

    The shootings over the past few summers in Ypsi were not of the sort of domestic violence. Innocent bystanders were being shot and/or terrorized because of gang violence. People eating lunch were ducking bullets. Families getting gas were being shot. But thats all “usual crime.” no reason to protest that.

  10. iRobert
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I find it disturbing to see anyone suggest murders are “ordinary” and something which the average person can do little about. Murders are a symptom of a sick society. There have been places and times in human history where they were almost non-existent. They may seem ordinary to the unfortunate folks who live in societies such as ours where murders are so common, but murder is a monstrous act committed by a deranged and dangerous sociopath. To live in a society which produces so many murderers should alarm us all, and it is something we certainly can do something about.

  11. iRobert
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The problem of graffiti has a very simple and easy solution. To bring so much attention to this individual vandal’s absurd message is a giant favor to him. To have erased his graffiti ASAP would be the most effective counter action. That, of course, isn’t the objective of most people, obviously.

  12. Lynne
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Dan, if you want to organize a protest, do so. Stop being a dick by criticizing other people’s efforts.

    iRobert, murders *are* ordinary and they absolutely are something that the average person can do something about and are. Murder rates are declining. In some cases, such as anti-gun protests, protests may be appropriate but generally, because of the different motivations of criminals, protests are not effective at reducing murder rates but they *are* effective at letting racist a-holes know that their actions are not accepted.

    And as a side note, murders are actually mostly committed by ordinary people who do not meet the criteria of sociopath.

    I think people wanted to bring attention to this act because it gives them the opportunity to protest it. I disagree that quietly erasing it would help. Far better to go big and let the jerks know that this simply will not be tolerated without disruption.

  13. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    So you think that this idiot thought that his racist action would be accepted? He was unaware that people would not like it? This protest was the only reason that he now knows better and will not have such thoughts?

  14. Lynne
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    No, the protest is less for the person who committed the crime and more for the community at large. It sends the message that the message in the graffiti was heard *and* rejected.
    and yes, I think it matters. I mean the fact that anyone would have a problem with this kind of protest is a reason why such protests are needed in the first place.

  15. soggy_waffles
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    So the vigils, community meetings, and police/sheriff efforts after the shootings count for nothing? This protest is important, but real work went into responding to the shootings. Hopefully, EMU will do real work in making students feel comfortable after this incident too, but people showed up for both events in the way that mattered most to them. But to you apparently, the vigils that people held for a kid who was killed wasn’t good enough.

  16. iRobert
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    No reasonable person would have any problem with this protest, other than the concern which Dan has suggested, which is that there are very serious problems being ignored, while this stupid act of an individual is being given a whole hell of a lot of what the vandal was seeking, which is attention to his idiotic message.

    It is especially telling when the solution is so simple, and yet not being initiated by this group of supposedly concerned citizens. It becomes very clear that bringing people together is not the purpose of the protest. The purpose is clearly to capitalize on one small, simple and stupid act of an attention hungry loser.

  17. Michael Jewett
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The area around King Hall was graffiti bombed with messages of love, peace and tolerance in the wake of the graffiti attack yesterday.

  18. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Organized rallys are not the same thing as spontaneous protests. Of course those rallys and such mattered. They matter a lot more than a bunch of people just blocking traffic. They show actual thought about what happened. They were positive gatherings to discuss what we can do to stop gun violence. These protests do nothing positive. Not one person that wanted “niggers to leave” changed their mind. Not one person that thought it was offensive graffiti somehow thought it was more offensive because people blocked traffic. It accomplished exactly nothing

  19. Quinn Marie
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    At the Black Lives Matter march I went to in A2 earlier this year the drivers who were stopped were generally supportive. The march was mostly white. A smaller (mostly black) march in Ypsi sees the protesters repeatedly “bumped” (read: assaulted) by motorists who reportedly used racial slurs. Please prosecute the drivers. People must have gotten their license plate numbers.

  20. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Throwing stuff at people always brings positive change

  21. site admin
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    The spray painted response that Michael noted above can be seen here.

  22. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I have been part of protests that shut streets down and I have felt guilty about it afterward. It is wrong to block traffic. It is wrong to throw stuff at people in cars. What is going on the video? At first I thought the black jeep ran over someone’s body but then it seemed like, on my small screen, the jeep was being rocked back and forth by protestors….If so, that is irresponsible and ineffective protesting….Hopefully, nobody was hurt!

  23. Kim
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I have heard that the SUV was rocked by protestors.

  24. soggy_waffles
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    College students protest, thats what they do. Do the UM die ins make a difference? No. Does the occupation of UM’s administrative buildings make a difference, no! Do the protests against Israel on the diag do anything for anyone not on the diag? Of course not!

    Students protest, thats just what they do. But for some reason, when UM students march to the presidents house, we understand that they are practicing democracy. That they are getting involved in a way that sure, doesn’t actually matter, but we accept it and move on.

    But for some reason, when black students do the same thing, we brand them ungrateful, over-reactive, ignorant, or lazy. They are practicing the same democratic right that any ivy league student does when they want to express themselves.

    Today, all the administrators and employees of EMU are thinking about what they can do to make students feel safe. Its the same work they’ve had to do for years, given some of the problems the community has had. Previous efforts lead them to get volunteers to walk people home at night and improve security at dorms. Maybe now they’ll add more security cameras and improve surveillance on campus. Is it because of the protest? No. But the grown ass people who are charged with making students safe care about what students think and feel nonetheless. And some of these students might get involved with making things better as well, in part because protests at least let them see a path towards making a difference.

  25. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Quinn Marie

    Were the protesters in ann arbor rocking cars and throwing things at them?

  26. Taco Farts
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    This thread should be used in textbooks to demonstrate how your life experiences (or lack thereof) shape your ability to empathize. Maybe I’m improperly making assumptions about certain others, but I bet the conversation here would be a lot more interesting and productive if the white men in the room (guilty) would just shut up for once.

  27. iRobert
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, shut up, Mark.

  28. Aidan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    About the lady who almost hit people with her car: The protest was blocking traffic, and she was near the front. She was looking very pissed off at us, and then she started honking her horn without stopping. Protesters surrounded her vehicle, and she gave us the finger and was saying “fuck you”. She then tried to drive forward and very nearly hit some protesters. People started throwing water bottles at her car, and she started driving forward again. Finally she managed to get away, but in the process she almost hit a guy on a motorcycle. Luckily he got out of the way in just time but she drove over his motorcycle.

  29. Dan
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink


    Who are we supposed to empathize with? The idiots in the street harassing and assaulting drivers? The idiots in cars threatening and assaulting protesters? The idiots that spray painted that? I don’t really tend to empathize with idiots and there are lots and lots of different ones involved in this. (knock yourself out kjc, I know you’re dieing to say it.)

  30. Taco Farts
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    My point could not have been more succinctly proven.

  31. mytatom
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    This YouTube video of the students’ black lives matter protest,, impressed me, and the fact that it was necessary depressed me.

  32. maryd
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Such ignorance spewed here today and all over the Ypsinet… With white guys complaining for the crazy bitch in the SUV, who couldn’t wait and spewed her own hate. You gotta laugh so you don’t cry it is so pathetic. We watch this carnage of constant killing of black people by police nationwide and our community wakes up to the hate written in bold on our campus. And none of you white guys can empathize. At some point you have to wonder why they object so much to protest. Do they not know history? I stand with BLM and thank you Lynn, for your usual common sense.

  33. Anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    It’s not over. Another racial epithet was found written on the wall of an EMU building. This time it was Wise Hall.

  34. iRober
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Why do we tolerate the dominance of all these blogs written by these white males like Mark Maynard? Mark, why does it have to be you writing this blog?! Why can’t it be somebody who knows real issues that face us from the inside? I demand you let somebody else choose the topics and write the headlines!…somebody besides just another pasty white male like yourself.

  35. iRobert
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    There is a lot more traffic to be blocked on the I-94 Interstate than on Washtenaw Avenue. Marching down I-94 during rush hour would be a lot more effective toward achieving the desired impact. That would make the issue known to a hundred times more people.

  36. iRobert
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Though it would only take a few minutes, I hope nobody at EMU removed the graffiti yet. It should be kept as long as possible as a reminder of the message of hate this one guy with four paint cans wanted us all to dwell upon. It’s important that his message be repeatedly shown on every blog, social media wall and TV news broadcast.

  37. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I haven’t seen an image of the single brick with the word “nigger” on it. Is it possible this is a piece of public graffiti art? A lot of people on mlive suspect the first “kkk” message was a hoax. Is it possible that the second piece was intended as a political statement sympathetic to black people–you know–just another brick in the wall sort of thing.

    The most recent crop of activists are, purposefully, possibly the worst conversationalists ever so it doesn’t seem likely that any of this will result in a fruitful conversation….

  38. iRobert
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    At EMU, scrubbing a wall clean of a little graffiti is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and nobody would dream of immediately painting over the message with a rectangular base coat and then maybe a positive message of unity. I mean, after all, it’s EMU, not Oxford.

  39. Kit
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile in Charlotte.

    “Charlotte isn’t a crumbling urban ghetto. When Charlotte erupts, we need to pay particularly close attention — Charlotte is [our] wake up call.”

  40. Emma
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    To the garbage people that can’t possibly comprehend the fact that people are marching to bring attention to racism and are citing the fact that no one has ever marched against other instances of violence in our community…

    You’re wrong:

  41. Posted December 22, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Is anybody taking bets on whether or not it was the same sort of situation here at EMU?

    Black Man Burned African-American Church, Painted ‘Vote Trump’ On The Walls

    A black man has been arrested and charged with burning an African-American church in Greenville, Miss. last month and defacing its outer walls with “Vote Trump” graffiti.

    The Mississippi state police arrested Andrew McClinton, 45, on Wednesday and charged him with first-degree arson of a place of worship, Warren Strain, a spokesman with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety told The Daily Caller.

    McClinton allegedly set first to Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, where he is a member, on Nov. 1, a week before the election. The fire destroyed 80 percent of the church. A GoFundMe account raised more than $240,000 to repair the facility.

    Read more:

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] it’s not just Eastern Michigan University that has an on-campus white supremacy problem. It was reported earlier today by members of […]

  2. […] on a campus of thousands, but, given the climate of the United States post-Trump, and the recent incidents of racist graffiti on EMU’s campus, one hopes the administration is taking this […]

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