Portraits of Black Professors at Harvard Defaced
Yet another incident of racism on college campuses, which authorities are investigating as a hate crime
Harvard Law School on Thursday became the newest addition to the ever-growing list of collegiate campuses being plagued by racially-charged incidents. Black strips of tape were stuck on several portraits of Black professors at the university. Not all portraits with Black professors were defaced, but only Black professors were targeted. University authorities currently do not have any suspects.
The incident came just a day after students held a rally in support of the students at University of Missouri and Yale, who have spent the last several weeks battling racial tensions on their own respective campuses, holding protests and walkouts that resulted in the resignation of Mizzou's president.
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The law school's dean, Martha Minow, said in an email that campus authorities were investigating what happened as a hate crime.
"I am saddened and angered by this act," Minow said.
"We will not always agree on the best ways forward," Harvard President Dean Faust said. "But we owe it to one another to shape an environment in which every one of us is fully included."
Students have found the incident offensive and believe it was a clear attack on race.
"I woke up to a bunch of texts," Kyle Strickland, the school's student body president, said regarding the incident. "As a black student, it was extremely offensive. And I know the investigation's ongoing; we'll see what happened, but to me it seemed like a pretty clear act of intolerance, racism."
RELATED STORY: Yale Students March Same Day Mizzou Pres. Resigns
According to its website, Harvard Law School's 2015 class was comprised of "44 percent students of color" and does not provide a further breakdown. However, the College Scorecard for the undergraduate class shows just 7 percent of students are Black. And of the 125 full-time faculty members, only 12 are Black.
Professor Ronald Sullivan, a professor at Harvard Law, tweeted a photo of his own defaced portrait.
This is my portrait at the Harvard Law School. All faculty of color woke up to the same thing this morning. pic.twitter.com/T0HLbBYt6Y
— Ronald S. Sullivan (@ProfRonSullivan) November 19, 2015
"This is my portrait at the Harvard Law School," he wrote. "All faculty of color woke up to the same thing this morning."
RELATED STORY: Black Lives Matter Student Protests Around the U.S.
Following the news, a group of students immediately tracked down Dean Minow and asked that "we talk about this," according to third-year student Dami Animashaun. This act turned into a meeting, comprised of hundreds of students and several faculty members and administrators, to discuss race relations on campus.
"Racism exist[s] in America ... and in Harvard and in Harvard Law School," Minow said at the meeting.
Shay Johnson, a third-year student and the internal vice-president of the Harvard Black Law Students Association, described the meeting as "very emotional."
Although admission for the Class of 2018 "represent[s] record levels of diversity," according to The Harvard Crimson, students attending the school have said this doesn't hold true for the actual climate on campus.
"While we're hurt that this happened, we're really not surprised," Johnson said. "Because it's part of this larger system of racial antagonism that [has] been going on in the U.S. and at the law school, whether it's explicit or implicit."
In a statement to CNN, senior A.J. Clayborne expressed similar sentiments: "This is merely a symptom of the greater systematic racism that currently permeates this law school and legal institutions in general."
Also on Thursday, the school's Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion released a 37-page report that highlighted this grim reality. The report indicates how one initiative, the Students Event Fund (SEF), geared towards helping low-income students backfired:
This program had the admirable aim of affording students the chance to attend up to five campus events each semester at no cost. Yet several students (and, at a different point, alumni) noted how separate lines for SEF ticket pickups marked students to their wealthier classmates; one resident tutor remembered jokes about the "welfare line" or the "poor kids line" during his undergraduate days.
Indeed, a large class gap exists at the school. Only 3 percent of undergraduate students receive federal loans for their tuition, and just 10 percent receive a Pell Grant.
Students have been speaking out regarding Harvard's problems with diversity for quite some time. Last year, a Tumblr page called I, Too, Am Harvard was launched. According to the page's description, the site gives a voice to students who feel silenced on campus: "Our voices often go unheard on this campus, our experiences are devalued, our presence is questioned — this project is our way of speaking back, of claiming this campus, of standing up to say: We are here. This place is ours. We, TOO, are Harvard."
RELATED STORY: Campus Racism Likely to Claim Another University President
The students have handled the situation in a seemingly positive way. On Thursday night, following the removal of the black tape from the portraits, students put Post-It notes on the pictures instead and wrote various kind words about their professors. These actions and the way the students reacted to the incident have spoken volumes, according to professors affected by the vandalism.
"I am so proud of these students for reacting with love and kindness, for showing leadership, and for valuing inclusion," Dr. Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a professor of constitutional law, said.
"My shock and dismay … were replaced with joy and admiration when I saw the lovely notes of affirmation and appreciation that Harvard law students placed on our portraits," Professor Sullivan said.
The university has scheduled another community meeting for November 30.
"I think, at this point, everybody's qualified and everyone should run," Obama said, in jest. "I might even tap Sasha!"
We've never had a POTUS and FLOTUS like the Obama's before, and we've never had a Trump before. Two very different presidencies, one wrought with bigotry, racism and rampant white supremacy, and scandal, the other full of hope, unity and service. Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama says we need to pay attention to who is qualified in the next presidential election.
"I implored people to focus and think about what it takes to be commander-in-chief," Obama told Robin Roberts in a "20/20" interview, in reference to women electing a misogynist in 2016 instead of a qualified female candidate.
She expressed the importance of voting, but went beyond that to describe the kind of person qualified to run this country.
"The commander in chief needs to have discipline, and read, and be knowledgeable. You need to know history, you need to be careful with your words," she said.
"I'm going to be looking to see who handles themselves and each other with dignity and respect so that by the time people get to the general (election), people aren't beat up and battered," the former first lady, who said she will not run for president, stressed.
"I think this (Democratic nomination) is open to any and everybody who has the courage to step up and serve."
She even joked that at this point, anyone is qualified to run for president —even her daughter.
"I think, at this point, everybody's qualified and everyone should run," she said on Good Morning America "I might even tap (her younger daughter) Sasha!"
.@MichelleObama on whether Hillary Clinton should run for president in 2020: "I think at this point everybody is qualified and everybody should run. I might even tap Sasha!" https://t.co/E6lGKfK6oR pic.twitter.com/Axrvs7SDZQ
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 13, 2018
Obama and her husband were about service before, during and after the presidency.
Candidates like Trump, drunk with power, have a past, present, and future that mirror that intoxication.
Coming off midterms there are questions about what to do next — investigations of Trump, what lessons did we learn articles, predictions of the 2020 election, but getting back to what a leader, a public servant of this country is supposed to do — lead by serving its people — is a message that voters can review candidate criteria with.
"It's amazing to me that we still have to tell people about the importance of voting," she said. "People have to be educated, they have to be focused on the issues and they have to go to the polls if they want their politics to reflect their values."
Obama explained, "Where I'm at right now is that we should see anybody who feels the passion to get in this race, we need them in there. Let's see who wants to roll up their sleeves and get in the race. That's what the primary process is for."
In looking at Trump's record, most of his decisions have been made to serve himself. His record of cheating employees out of money, not paying taxes, discriminating against Blacks in terms of who could claim residency in his buildings, misogynistic comments, scandals around payoffs for affairs — none of it shows signs of service.
Obama writes in her new memoir "Becoming" how Trump's division and bigoted messaging tactics to garner a movement to propel his campaign impacted her own family's safety:
"The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks."
In current times, his decisions in the White House usually involve a lot of divisive words to spark attention from white supremacists, "look what I did" moments on twitter for validation, and little about what the country needs, but instead what the country should be afraid of.
And that is not why you get the job in the first place.
The Children's Place may not be so welcoming if you're Black or Brown.
Miriam and Carlita Alejandro, Latinx sisters, shopping at The Children's Place in Camp Hill, Pa., got harassed by a nosey store clerk when they ask to price match clothes. A sales associate said the women were angry because they're on welfare.
Miriam said she was there to help a family who had lost everything in a fire by purchasing clothes for a child. Ms. Rhonda, the store clerk who was helping the ladies, said they may have to wait for the price check because the store was busy.
Miriam wrote on her Facebook page that she responded to Ms. Rhonda: "'Lancaster never gives us any issues or said such a thing, but okay.' Then Price Match Patty aka Genie who was never in our conversation started getting smart saying that we (my sister & I) 'were mad because we were on welfare.'"
Ms. Rhonda didn't know what to do when the Alejandro sisters reported what the nosey store employee said, but she attempted to chastise her. Miriam started recording to document the experience they had.
Price Match Patty has been fired, according to a company statement provided on Monday. Carlita Alejandro posted on Facebook that the company called and offered gift cards and reward points to continue spending her money at the retailer.
Because that's the way to handle your company's screw up-- buy off the people your employees have offended?
Alejandro wrote, "I will NEVER feel safe nor welcomed shopping their stores again!!"
The Children's Place has a history of discrimination. In 2000, they lost a lawsuit concerning profiling customers and had to provide anti-discrimination training in all stores in Massachusetts and hire a consultant to look at their policies.
Unrelated to the incident, two executives left the company this week (Pamela Wallack and Anurup Pruthi), "to pursue other opportunities" — the only minority and the only female in the C-Suite (other than the female CEO). The Children's Place Inc. has never participated in DiversityInc's Top 50 Companies for Diversity competition.
CEO and president Jane Elfers said, "As we approach the last phase of our major systems implementations, the opportunity exists for significant efficiencies across the organization, and today we are announcing a more streamlined senior leadership structure."
Price Match Patty has not been fully identified yet, but some commenters on social media say she's married to a Black man, like Key Fob Kelly in St. Louis. That wouldn't excuse her behavior anyway.
Others say they have been profiled at that same store by Price Match Patty and others before:
Her racist comments cost Susan Westwood her job, her apartment, and gave her a criminal record.
Susan Westwood's racist rant landed her simple assault and criminal threats charges and a warrant after leaving the scene where she harassed the Garris sisters outside their Charlotte, N.C., apartment complex, threatening them with concealed weapons.
The fake 911 call she made saying that the sisters were trying to break in also earned her a misdemeanor warrant for misuse of the 911 system, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Westwood was booked by Sunset Beach Police on Saturday and transferred to the Brunswick County Sheriff's Department. She was later released.
The Garris sisters' attorney, Michael Phillips, brought up the safety issue in terms of concealed weapons and threats to residents to the Camden Fairview Apartments attorneys, and they agreed to evict Westwood.
"When I spoke with them and their legal counsel they agreed that that behavior was not going to be tolerated at their apartment complex," Phillips said.
Westwood had threatened to take out her concealed weapons after telling the sisters that she was white and hot, and that they didn't belong there.
The 911 call Westwood made was released by police:
"There are folks that are trying to break in. They're trying to get in the apartments. They are actually people that I've never seen here before ― but they are African American."
When the dispatcher said that police were already responding to a broken down car in that area, Westwood replied: "If you want to know my personal opinion, there's no car broken down. There's somebody trying to cause problems. Nobody breaks their car down in the best part of society."
"They just don't belong here. … Get them out of here," Westwood demanded. "I'll tell you what, I'll pay $2,500 to get them out of here."
In a recording of a call made by Garris, she told another dispatcher that she was still waiting for police while Westwood was harassing her.
Westwood was heard screaming, "You're not going to sell drugs here."
Garris had to call 911 twice to get a response about Westwood, and when they showed up Westwood had already gone. She was MIA for four days, before turning herself in.
"We are so distraught and still very upset about what has taken place only because of the color of our skin. It was so upsetting to know that today we still have this overt racism that's going on in 2018," said one of the sisters.
Thousands protested for the 11 lives lost, the two victims in Louisville, and the many more stifled by President Trump's racism and bigotry.
Trump visited the synagogue on Tuesday and left.
On Wednesday he tweeted, "The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away. The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!"
Nearly 70,000 people as of Tuesday signed the petition from the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc to demand Trump stay away from Pittsburgh.
Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, had asked Trump to reschedule his visit to respect the grieving families and funerals.
Steven Halle, a nephew of one of the victims, Daniel Stein, rejected a meeting with Trump because of his comments blaming the synagogue for not having an armed guard to stop the gunman "immediately."
"Everybody feels that they were inappropriate," Halle said of Trump's comments. "A church, a synagogue, should not be a fortress. It should be an open, welcoming place to feel safe," he continued.
But Trump didn't care and came for his photo ops, and to promote Republican candidate Keith Rothfus via Twitter:
Yesterday in Pittsburgh I was really impressed with Congressman Keith Rothfus (far more so than any other local political figure). His sincere level of compassion, grief and sorrow for the events that took place was, in its own way, very inspiring. Vote for Keith!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
Trump told Fox News on Monday night:
"I'm also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt," Trump said. "I really look forward to going. I would have done it even sooner, but I didn't want to disrupt any more than they already had disruption."
But his visit was drowned out by thousands who took to the streets of the city to protest, marching toward the synagogue, singing songs, and holding signs that said, ""Refugees Are Not Invaders," "Pittsburgh Builds Bridges Not Walls" and "Pittsburgh Welcomes All Who Don't Hate."
"It's an unbelievable image that we're looking at. These are peaceful protesters, walking along, grieving about the tragic death of 11 of their neighbors in a synagogue on Saturday, and protesting the presence of Donald Trump, the president, in their community today." pic.twitter.com/AuZbQxIq0o
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 30, 2018
Tuesday evening, Tracy Baton, director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Women's March on Washington, stood on the steps of the Sixth Presbyterian Church and spoke to thousands:
Those who "would insert themselves on a national stage, into a city in mourning, before the dead are buried, is unacceptable," she said. "Those that would limit our neighbors' vote, that would foment hate against the Jewish community, Muslim community, people of color, LGBTQ people, as well as wage a war on women's bodies, are not welcome here!"
Jewish group IfNotNow organized a protest and sat shiva. Organizer and Pittsburgh resident Diana Clarke told the crowd, "We are here to mourn the 11 Jewish people who were killed on Saturday. We are here to mourn the two black people who were
shot by a white nationalist in Louisville, Kentucky, last week."
"I think that Donald Trump represents white nationalism and white supremacy, and that has no place in the mourning lives lost to exactly those systems that his administration upholds," Clarke told HuffPost.
"We have people who can't sit shiva because you're blocking our streets!" the Rev. Susan Rothenberg, a Presbyterian minister screamed at Trump when he arrived. "These people can't grieve! You're causing them pain!"
She continued, "You only care about you! You are not welcome on my street! These are my neighbors that were killed! You are not welcome in Squirrel Hill! Do you understand that?"
Major corporations are pulling support over King's divisive rhetoric about race, ethnicity and immigrants.
Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa's campaign is losing support from companies. In the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, consumers and employees are pushing back against companies donating to King as they are fed up with his years of racist comments and association with white nationalists, even retweeting a Nazi sympathizer.
Trump continues to pander to his base before midterm elections.
President Trump said that he plans to sign an executive order to end birthright citizenship to children born in the United States to non-citizens and undocumented immigrants. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said it's an attempt to "fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred" before next week's midterm elections.
Robert Paul Rundo leads the "overtly racist, violent right-wing fight club" based in California.
Robert Paul Rundo, the 28-year-old leader of the violent Rise Above Movement (RAM), who fled the U.S. earlier this month for Mexico and then Central America, is now in federal custody. Rundo and his group beat counter-protesters to a pulp at a "Make America Great Again" rally.
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A video clip Gillum posted on Twitter of Wednesday's debate has gone viral.
A video clip that Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum posted on Twitter has gone viral with more than 3 million views. In just 40 seconds of Wednesday night's debate, Gillum, who is the mayor of Tallahassee, explains why racists believe Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is a racist.