Confederate flag fliers found hanging in four American University buildings
Flags found on same night as Ibram X. Kendi’s presentation on new Antiracist Research Center
Public Safety is investigating ten Confederate flag fliers found hanging Tuesday night in four buildings, Battelle-Tompkins, McKinley and the Mary Graydon Center, Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw said Tuesday at 11:56 p.m. The Eagle located another flier in the basement of the Kogod School of Business.
Some of the fliers were found hanging beneath a Center for Israel Studies sign in Battelle-Tompkins and on a bulletin board outside the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in MGC.
The fliers were pinned to bulletin boards with cotton stalks taped to them. The posters also had the phrases “Huzzah for Dixie” in large letters and “I wish I was in the Land of Cotton” in smaller font. The back of the fliers had the words “D.C. Counter Resistance” inscribed. DCist reported that fliers bearing the same name and logo were discovered near Takoma in August.
The incident occurred on the same night that Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a new professor who founded the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at AU, gave a presentation about his plans for the center.
“We are well aware this act occurred the same evening Dr. Ibram Kendi presented ‘A Vision for Equality,’ an introduction to the Antiracist Research and Policy Center,” Aw said in a statement. “AU is committed to the vision of the Center and Dr. Kendi's work and we will not be deterred by this cowardly attempt at intimidation.”
The flag posters are not the first racist symbol hung at AU. In May, students spotted bananas hanging from string tied like nooses outside campus buildings on the same day that Student Government President Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman to hold that role, took office. In September 2016, a female black freshman reported having a banana thrown at her in her dorm by white male freshmen.
Kendi posted a message to AU students, particularly students of color and Jewish students, on Twitter early Wednesday morning.
"This is the latest attempt to frighten our community, as groups are trying to frighten other communities around the country," Kendi wrote. "Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the strength to do what is right in the face of it. In the coming days and weeks and months, no matter what happens, let's gather that strength together. Do not let these terrorists slow you down, fear you down."
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) September 27, 2017
Senior Joe Palekas said he was exiting Kendi’s “History of Racism” class in the basement of Battelle-Tompkins at about 10:35 p.m. when he and his classmates noticed Confederate flag fliers hung on the bulletin board for the Center for Israel Studies. One of his classmates called Public Safety and reported the poster, as well as three others that they found in the basement.
“The officer told us that they had about 10 other officers responding to different areas on campus with the same report, that it had all been called in the past 30 minutes,” Palekas told The Eagle Tuesday night.
Palekas said he and his classmates were “shaken up” after discovering the posters and cotton attached to them. Senior Max Spivak was also in the “History of Racism” class and believes the posters could have been hung outside the classroom intentionally.
“To come out immediately following a seminar discussing racism and its historical effects that last into today, it was a very surreal moment,” Palekas said. “All of us were speechless. We were standing there and we would sort of mutter, like, ‘Oh, this is crazy.’ I was in shock and very confused and scared.”
Another senior that found the posters in Battelle, Walter Francis, said he saw the flag poster on the Center for Israel Studies board after his class ended at 10:30 p.m. and realized that it did not belong there. Francis told The Eagle he had checked the bulletin board during a break in the class looking for information about the Center. When he returned to the bulletin board after class, a Confederate flag flier had been posted.
Francis said he remembers “getting really angry,” especially after “the first two episodes last spring and last fall,” referring to incidents in September 2016 and May 2017. Francis said AUPD showed up quickly after, and the responding officer told him there were flag posters found in other buildings.
American University Student Government published a statement at 1 a.m. Wednesday. In their statement, they said they are “infuriated” by the “horrifying” image displayed across campus. They commended students for reporting the posters as well as administrators for their prompt response to the incident.
The American University chapter of the NAACP shared an event Wednesday sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma, a predominantly black fraternity. The NAACP said students should go to the event titled “Speak Your Mind: BLU Thoughts” if they “have some thoughts about last night’s incident,” in reference to the posters.
The AU College Republicans and AU College Democrats each released statements Wednesday morning as well. The College Republicans condemned the racist defacing of community property, stating “abhorrent displays of intolerance and hatred have no place on this campus or anywhere in this country.” The College Democrats expressed their solidarity with students of color, saying “no student should have to feel unsafe in their learning environment.”
The Eagle will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.