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.