A day after flyers with racial remarks were posted on a University of South Carolina campus building members of the Gamecocks community continued to respond.
Tuesday, flyers were found taped to a display case outside the offices for the university’s African-American studies program in Gambrell Hall.
Although the issue was immediately addressed by a university spokesman and the student body vice president among others, more students and members of the administration got involved Wednesday. Some used words, others took action and future plans were made.
They are all in response to the messages that used racially insensitive language to blame African-Americans for the election of President Donald Trump.
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USC President Harris Pastides posted a message to the “Carolina Family,” addressing the issue. Pastides posted a link to the the letter on Twitter.
“What happened on campus yesterday is simply not reflective of who we are as Carolinians. Period,” Pastides tweeted with the link.
He also included plans for a discussion on the incident that occurred hours after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated.
“Join us (Thursday) at 5 p.m. in the Russell House Theater for a community dialogue,” Pastides wrote.
Some USC students couldn’t wait that long to respond to the racist messages. Especially since it isn’t believed that a current South Carolina student posted the messages.
“Eyewitnesses observed a white male that appeared to be in his mid-40s in the area at the time the (flyers) were discovered,” USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said. “Video surveillance confirms that description and USCPD is working to identify the individual. Officials are not sure if he has any connection to the university.”
Several students rallied Wednesday to show that the flyers, and their implied messages, will not be tolerated at USC.
A group named A.Bevy gathered African-American students to take part in a photo session, where the images will be used for a counter-poster campaign sharing the subject’s thoughts on racism.
Darnisha Boone, a 23-year-old studio arts major concentrating on photography, organized the event. She posted a message online asking students to come pose for a group photo and individual portraits in front of Russell House on campus and share messages to run on posters of the images.
“I wanted to do something,” Boone said of her organizing, which she called Artreach. “I wanted to show we’re not afraid to stand up.”
Boone said she plans to display the posters on campus and across Columbia, including spots in Five Points and the Vista.
The posters all begin with the phrase, “I am not …” That is followed by a thought or word from the subject photographed, addressing racism. Some of the students who participated followed the introduction by saying “Your Negro,” “Uneducated,” “An Animal,” and “Beneath You.”
Boone, a Sumter native, said she was inspired to take action out of her frustration.
“I don’t understand racism. We’re all the same people made of the same flesh, made of the same bones,” she said. “I’m interested to see how people respond.”
This isn’t the first issue of race on South Carolina’s campus. There have been a couple of incidents in recent years.
Less than three years ago, a USC student was suspended because of a photo of a racial slur written in a campus study room. The photo showed a white female student writing on a whiteboard with a slur about African-Americans.
A year ago, there was an incident where a white student posted an image wearing a mask with charcoal on it that caused some uproar among the African-American students at USC.
“As a Carolina Family, we must make it clear that bigotry and racism have no place in our community,” Pastides said in his letter.
A message to the Carolina family
Dear Carolina Family:
Yesterday, as our students returned to campus we were reminded why it is so important to celebrate the legacy and pursue the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. As classes resumed, we were filled with excitement for new beginnings, perhaps some nervousness about the semester ahead, the joy of seeing old friends and anticipation for making new ones. Those positive feelings were abruptly halted by an abhorrent and unacceptable display of hatred – flyers posted in two buildings containing despicable words of bigotry and racism.
This is not who we are and this behavior has no place at Carolina. Simply put, this was an act of cowardice and ignorance. As a community of scholars and as a family, we reject that way of thinking.
Ours is a community built on inclusivity and respect for all. We value all people and seek to create an environment in which each of us feels welcome and can thrive.
Unfortunately, our campus is not immune from the ills of society and we are not, nor can we be, completely insulated from the actions or influence of outside actors. Recent articles in the New York Times and Politico cite experts who are expecting an increase of incidents like this one on college campuses across the country in 2018.
Therefore, we must be prepared. We must be prepared to combat hatred with love and respect; venomous rhetoric with civility and thoughtful debate; violence with a handshake or friendly embrace.
As a Carolina Family, we must make it clear that bigotry and racism have no place in our community. That responsibility falls to all of us. We invite you to join other members of our community and make your voice heard tomorrow at a community dialogue sponsored by the offices of Diversity and Inclusion and Multicultural Student Affairs. This dialogue will provide a space to raise concerns and seek appropriate responses to hatred, in all forms, on our campus. The conversation will begin at 5 p.m. in the Russell House Ballroom.
Throughout the rest of this week our MLK Celebration continues. Participate in the food drive contributions, join us for the MLK Commemorative Breakfast on Friday, “Freedom Rings: An artistic celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on Sunday and volunteer for the MLK Day of Service. Let’s show the world that we will stand united against hatred as we defend and pursue Dr. King’s legacy.
Harris Pastides, President
John C. von Lehe, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Trustees