African-American Goucher College students respond to racist graffiti, threat with 'Black Out'

More than 100 African-American Goucher College students conducted what they termed a "Black Out" on the Towson campus all day Friday to protest the most recent episode of hate-filled graffiti at a Maryland school.

“Hey hey, ho ho, this racist s--- has got to go,” they chanted in the Mary Fisher dining hall.

Earlier in the week, someone drew a swastika and wrote “I’m gonna kill all [n-----s]” in a dorm bathroom, where they also listed the numbers of three dorm rooms that house African-American students.

Adam Jones, a junior philosophy major who lives in one of those rooms, didn’t know about the graffiti until he received a knock on his door at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday by a Baltimore County police officer.

“I thought it was a joke at first,” he said of the moment he heard someone say “police.”

Then the officer told him what had happened.

“The whole point of her knocking on the door was to make sure I wasn’t dead on the floor,” Jones said. “It just kind of sunk in. Someone does want to kill me because of the color of my skin.”

Students from Goucher’s black student union, Umoja, and others rallied.

“We are demonstrating today to ask Goucher to be accountable,” said JaVaunte Neumann, 21, a junior majoring in political science. “I’ve seen white supremacy be tolerated. Now, students are angry. White supremacists are getting pretty bold now with Donald Trump as president. We are at the point where we can’t wait for the administration or Baltimore County Police.”

Neumann said he would like to see more resources for the Center for Race, Equity and Identity, where underrepresented students have a “safe space” and participate in social justice workshops and other programs addressing racism and white privilege.

Marie Mokuba, 18, a sophomore majoring in peace studies, said this most recent threat comes after several hateful incidents and criticized the school administration.

“When it comes to accountability, they think of sending emails and calling the police,” she said. “We need those steps, but we also need an accountability system in place. We need to feel safe.”

Students shouted a number of chants:

“I am student 104,” referring to one of the dorm room numbers targeted in the graffiti; “The mandate for black people in this time is to avenge the suffering of our ancestors and earn the respect of future generations”; “We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains. It is our duty to fight for our freedom.”

Jones joined the students and told them, “Hatred and prejudice are just ideas. They will always exist. Whether we like it or not, we go to an institution where those kinds of people are here. The only way to combat such hatred is with love.”

Goucher administrators reported four similar vandalism incidents to Baltimore County police last year.

All were listed as “inconclusive,” meaning police could not determine whether the incidents were based on hate. That was often because authorities weren’t able to identify suspects.

Baltimore County Police spokeswoman Jennifer Peach told The Baltimore Sun that police had investigated the incidents last year “until all leads were exhausted.”

She said all involved black marker bias-related statements on community bathroom stalls during overnight hours and that all reports indicated there were no witnesses, no known possible suspects, and no surveillance video in the dormitory halls.

Goucher spokeswoman Tara de Souza said the school has installed more than 40 security cameras in recent years. She said Goucher has established new curriculum including an evolving “Race, Power, and Perspective” requirement and recently completed a multi-year engagement with Baltimore Racial Justice Action through which faculty and staff engaged in racial justice and equity training.

“The College looks forward to working collaboratively with our students, to ultimately move forward from this incident, and work to create the just and equitable community which we aspire to be,” de Souza said in an emailed statement.

Reports of hate-related vandalism in Maryland schools nearly doubled to 62 in 2017, according to Maryland State Police records.

A Sun investigation reported a 35 percent surge of reported hate incidents across the state in 2017.

Baltimore Sun reporter Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.

crentz@baltsun.com

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