A week after black undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst received a disturbing and racist email that referred to students of color as “animals,” the African Studies Department American university released a statement expressing outrage.
This is the second racist email black students have received this school year.
“Targeting recognizable black spaces on campus has been part of a larger pattern over the past few years,” WEB Du Bois’s African American Studies department said in its statement. “Our undergraduate and graduate students have been singled out in the most recent and oldest anti-black emails, as well as a violently threatening racist zoom bomb attack. We believe these incidents are important.
Black student groups and several individual black students at UMass Amherst were targeted in a racist email on May 3. The message contained offensive sentiments and taunts following an unsuccessful investigation into a series of racist messages sent earlier this school year.
The email referred to black students as “animals” and stated that “by the [First Amendment]we have the right to hate you, to despise you and to insult you.
The sender taunted the students for the lack of progress in an ongoing investigation into similar anonymous racist emails sent to black students during the fall semester at UMass. These emails contained derogatory language telling black students they did not belong on campus and saying they should consider sterilization.
University officials hired Stroz Friedberg Digital Forensics, a national cybersecurity firm, to investigate emails targeting black students on campus. Their investigation came to no conclusion.
The university’s African American Studies department – which has a long history of hiring civil rights activists such as Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, John Bracey and many other barrier-breaking activists in as teachers – said he supports other UMass Amherst community members in expressing “outrage at the latest incident of racist and anti-Black terrorism on campus, which we see as part of a larger pattern at local and national levels,
UMass Amherst has an extensive list of incidents of hate-motivated bias that have been reported on campus in recent years.
The university defines incidents of bias as conduct, speech or expression motivated, in whole or in part, by bias or prejudice. They differ from hate crimes in that no criminal activity is involved.
“While hate crimes on campus, if charged and prosecuted, are handled through the court system, incidents of bias are handled through academic grievance procedures,” the university said.
There were 42 reported hate incidents on the UMass campus during the 2021-2022 school year, more than any previous year. Only 25 incidents of bias were reported on campus during the 2020-2021 school year.
The full list of bias reports can be viewed here.
“Incidents targeting underrepresented and marginalized groups and individuals within sheltered classrooms are an unfortunate reality on campuses,” the university said. “And society as a whole, and we must stand united against these heinous acts.”
The WEB Du Bois department said it was imperative that university officials not only listen to what black students are saying, but seriously consider the needs of students in these “scary times.”
Zach Steward, head of the UMass Racial Justice Coalition, said he met with Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and other administrators after receiving the email last week.
“The university is working on it, and no matter what, black students should feel safe and supported on this campus,” Steward said. “And right now a lot of us don’t.”
The WEB Du Bois department also supports the efforts of the UMass Racial Justice Coalition and welcomes the university’s formation of the Black Advisory Council.
University officials said the council was created in response to the first email sent to black students in September. The council seeks to create a more supportive, fair and equitable campus environment for our black community.
The Black Advisory Council released a statement following last week’s email.
“It is so sad that the very presence of black students on this campus, many of whom have overcome tremendous odds and gone through great tribulations to achieve academic excellence, is seen as an offense to these racist individuals,” said counsel in his statement. . “As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rightly said decades ago, ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.'”