DCR Race & Accountability: Northam calls for VMI investigation after Black cadets describe relentless racism.☕☕☕

Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves an investigation into a military institute in virginia after accusations of racist actions conducted at the institution.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called for an investigation into the culture at Virginia Military Institute on Monday after Black cadets and alumni described relentless racism at the nation’s oldest state supported military college.

Governor Northam, who graduated in VMI’s Class of 1981, co wrote a letter to the college’s Board of Visitors informing it’s members that the state will fund an independent probe into the school’s treatment of its Black students.

The governor’s actions followed a story reported by the Washington Post detailing a lynching threat, Klan reminiscences and Confederacy veneration at the Lexington school, whose cadets fought and died for the slaveholding South during the Civil War.

The letter which was signed by Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), and several House and Senate leaders, including Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), the chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus; said the state is directing an ‘independent, third party review’ of what officials called “the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism at the Virginia Military Institute.”

Black cadets make up 8 percent of VMI’s 1,700 students. The school, which was founded in 1839 and became the last public college in Virginia to integrate in 1968, received nearly $19 million in state funds this past fiscal year.

The campus’s main Parade Ground features two statues of enslavers Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who taught at VMI, and the school’s first superintendent, Francis H. Smith, who believed Black people should be resettled in Africa. Until a few years ago, freshmen were required to salute the Jackson statue, which sits in front of the student barracks.

An article in the Washington Post; Black students and alumni described an atmosphere of hostility and cultural insensitivity. One Black woman, who graduated in the Class of 2019, filed a complaint against her White business professor who reminisced in class about her father’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan and how they had “the best parties ever.”

Other Black students claimed that they were outraged in 2018 when a White sophomore told a Black freshman during Hell Week that he’d “lynch” his body and use his “dead corpse as a punching bag.” According to a Black student who helped investigate the incident, the White student was only suspended, not expelled.

Several members of the Virginia House of Delegates expressed outrage after reading The story reported by the Washington Post.

Del. Don L. Scott Jr. (D-Portsmouth) said in an interview that the accounts from Black cadets and alumni “sickened” him.

Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (D-Prince William), a Black VMI graduate who is running for governor, said cadets accused of racism, sexism or bullying should be investigated and, if found guilty, expelled. She said the school also needs to create a diversity and inclusion office and institute diversity training for those who work there

All of the school’s top officials which includes the VMI chief of staff, the faculty dean, and the inspector general and Title IX coordinator, are White men. Of VMI’s 17 board members, just three are Black.

The school’s administrators and staff have also participated in racist incidents themselves. In 2017, Col. William Wanovich, the school’s commandant of cadets, posed in a photo with students who donned boxes to look like President Trump’s border wall, scrawled with “Keep Out” and No Cholos,” a slur against Mexicans. The school has declined to say whether Wanovich, who kept his job, was ever punished.

[At VMI, Black alumni want Stonewall Jackson’s statue removed. The school refuses.]

In June, Carmelo Echevarria Colon III, a former battalion operations and training sergeant who had been at the college since 2012, denounced the Black Lives Matter movement in a Facebook post that surfaced on Twitter: “I am seeing all these clowns taking a knee and bowing to [protest]. I’ll take a knee alright. To maximize my shooting platform.”

Colon left the school this summer.

Kaleb Tucker, who had just graduated after enduring four years of indignities as a Black cadet, shared an online petition demanding the removal of the Jackson statue. His effort sparked a counter petition by Jeremy Sanders, a Class of 2015 graduate and Army captain, who wrote that the “core” of VMI was “under attack by those who seek to destroy these noble ideas that have made VMI cadets an ‘honor to their country and state.’

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