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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.

RELATED STORY: Black Alum Named Interim Pres. of Mizzou

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," 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."

RELATED STORY: Princeton U. Students Stage Campus Sit-In Over 'Racist Legacy'

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.

 

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Update: Student Wearing MAGA Hat Standing Face-to-Face With Native American Veteran Releases Statement

"I was not intentionally making faces at the [protester]," said Nick Sandmann.

Screen shot of Instagram video by Kaya Taitano

UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 at 7 a.m.

Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School Junior who stands in front of Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha tribe and a veteran, in a viral video that has sparked outrage, made a statement through a lawyer and spokesman on Sunday night.

Sandmann said the students decided to raise their voices to drown out the comments against them by four protesters who identify themselves as Black Hebrew Israelites. A video has been released of the incident.

"A student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group," Sandmann said in his statement. "The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school," he said.

Phillips walked up to the students and said he started drumming and singing a song to encourage unity trying to quell the argument.

"There was that moment when I realized I've put myself between beast and prey,'' Phillips told the Detroit Free Press. "These young men were beastly and these old Black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.''

But said at one point, he claims the teenagers started saying "Go back to the reservation'' and broke into chants of "Build that wall.'' He also questioned why chaperones did not get involved.

"I was scared," Phillips told CNN. "I don't like the word 'hate.' I don't like even saying it, but it was hate unbridled. It was like a storm."

Sandmann claims he was "not intentionally making faces at the [protester]. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation."

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington in Kentucky is currently investigating the incident.

ORIGINAL STORY Published Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019

Students wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, who attend Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, K.Y., were in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the anti-abortion March for Life rally. In a video, it appears that Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha tribe and a veteran, was being mocked by the students at the Lincoln Memorial.

The incident occurred as the Indigenous Peoples March was ending. Videos showing their behavior went viral on social media on Saturday.

One of the students, standing less than a foot away, appears to be trying to intimidate Phillips by staring him down with a mocking smirk on his face. Phillips was in the midst of drumming and singing a song of unity:

Kaya Taitano, who shot the video, told CNN that MAGA hat-wearing-students and four Black teens, who'd been preaching about the Bible nearby, started yelling and calling each other names. That's why Phillips started drumming and singing a song to encourage unity trying to quell the argument.

President Trump, whom the students apparently idolize, posted a tweet last week to mock Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who plans to run for president in the 2020 election.

Trump made fun of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in response to a video Warren posted on Instagram.

Phillips, a Vietnam Era veteran who said he served between 1972 and 1976, is in tears as he explains in a video how the incident on Friday made him feel:

"I heard them saying, 'Build that wall, build that wall.' This in indigenous land. You know, we're not supposed to have walls here. We never did …"

He continued, "Before anybody else came here, we never had walls. We never had a prison. We always took care of our elders. We took care of our children. We always provided for them. We taught them right from wrong."

He said he wishes the young men who taunted him would use "that energy to make this country really great."

Robert "Bob" Rowe is the principal of Covington Catholic High School (email: browe@covcath.org).

An investigation is now taking place, and the MAGA teens could be expelled. The Diocese of Covington and the high school issued the following statement on Saturday:

"We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.

"The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.

"We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement."

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org demanding changes at the high school.

Many are saying on social media that the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students mimics how whites tried to intimidate Blacks during the civil rights movement:

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