Anti-Black Hate Crime on Campus Sparks Demonstrations
Article by Ben Libeskind
Photos by Thomas Gernon
For Adam Jones ‘20, Wednesday morning started with a knock on his door at approximately 5:30 am. It was the Baltimore City Police Department. At first, they asked was if he was okay. The reason: graffiti depicting a slur stating that “I’m gonna kill all n*****s” followed with three room numbers where black students resided, including his, as well as a swastika.
The crime was reported by another student earlier that morning and was estimated to have been done Tuesday evening or later in the night, according to Ridwan Lawal, President of Umoja, the Black Student Union at Goucher College. This was also not the first time that Jones became a victim of a crime at Goucher. Last year, he was physically assaulted by a woman on campus. After the assault, Jones said, “I called the police and I filed a police report, then I went to Public Safety while I was still bleeding.” For many, this hate crime brings memories of others committed in the past two years, including one involving transphobia and another targeting the Goucher Islamic community. One key difference between Wednesday’s hate crime and the past ones according to commuter student Nailah “Sunny” Jones ‘19, is that “This is the first time that specific people have been targeted. Usually, it is a community as a whole.”
Shortly before 10:20 am on Wednesday, Goucher students, faculty, and staff received an email from the Office of The Vice President and Dean of Students, notifying readers of the crime reported and specified the action that would be taken, including increased monitoring of the Jeffery House area. It also served as a condemnation of hatred and bigotry. “Goucher College strongly condemns all bigotry and racism, which are in complete opposition to our values and mission. We will absolutely not tolerate such abhorrent acts of hate, which threaten the well-being and safety of our community members.” the email read.
On Wednesday night, Umoja held an open forum to discuss the crime. Plans were made for Friday, on which Umoja organized a demonstration from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in the Mary Fisher Dining Center lobby. Speeches, chants, music, and dance were led by and for members of the Goucher black community. “The goal today is to show Goucher that all the Black students are together, against this [hate crime]… We are just trying to show people that the administration should be held accountable and should be keeping us safe. And at the end of the day, that’s mainly what this is for.” Lawal stated in an interview. Lalissie Eteffa ‘21 remarked, “We are protesting for safety and accountability.”
On the issue of feeling safe on campus,
Ms. Jones added that “being on campus, there are times when no, I do not feel safe, especially at times like this. I shouldn’t have to be scared. My friends shouldn’t have to be scared to walk to class or to their dorms.” In another interview, Javaunte Neumann ‘20 recalled a past experience of racism on campus. “I have had a noose drawn on my door. I have been called n****r.” Neumann also declared “As the black student body we are scared, we are angry, and we need something to change. If the administration won’t do it, we are going to do it for ourselves.” In an interview with Eteffa, she added, “I don’t know what people are capable of and I don’t know how far people want to go, so that adds to my fear.” The issue of privilege in relation to safety also became evident “I wish I had that privilege of seeing something happen and then being like “ok, well I’m fine”. I don’t have that privilege. A lot of students forget that they have that privilege.” Eteffa remarked.
Referring to whether she thought Public Safety was taking the hate crime seriously, Ms. Jones commented “At first I didn’t, but today I do. Just seeing their support and seeing them sitting here with us all day, it shows that our voices are being heard.” On whether the Goucher Administration was listening to the issues presented by the hate crime, Ms. Jones replied “I feel like their starting to.”
For ideas on how the student culture at Goucher can be changed, Neumann outlined his approach. “Stop being divided. Form a coalition against white supremacy. If multiple marginalized groups form together, we can eventually beat this out.” Set forth by Eteffa regarding action to be taken was that “It doesn’t end here. Just because we expressed this outrage doesn’t mean that now we are fine.”
After the demonstration, Eteffa remarked, “I do like how there was a lot of black students who came out and that there were allies, so that did give me hope, especially since I don’t usually feel that as much.”
In a Friday follow-up email, The Office Of the Vice President and Dean of Students, stated “The College does have leads in this case, which we have shared with BCoPD. At this time and based on the information we currently have, it does seem that a member of the College community committed this act.” Additionally, The Office of The Provost invited students, faculty, and staff to a “condemnation of racism and hate” in front of Heubeck Hall on Monday at 5:00 pm.
For purposes of transparency, The Goucher Eye has been collaborating with Goucher’s print publication, The Quindecim. More information on the hate crime can be found in their upcoming publication.
To report information on Wednesday’s hate crime, David Heffer, Director of Public Safety, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-337-6112, or report anonymously via the Silent Witness webpage.