Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Confederate Flags With Cotton Found on American University Campus
New York Times
SEPT. 27, 2017

Ten Confederate flag posters with cotton attached to them were discovered on the campus of American University on Tuesday evening, according to a statement posted by the school.

The posters, with imagery that evoked slavery, were found the same evening that the school introduced its Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center. The university’s vice president of campus life, Fanta Aw, drew a link between that presentation, delivered by the center’s founding director, Ibram Kendi, and the fliers.

“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,” she said in a statement, adding that the university and campus police had opened an investigation.

The university’s president, Sylvia M. Burwell, said Wednesday that video images had captured a suspect hanging the posters on bulletin boards in at least four campus buildings.

The suspect captured on video is a white male, the university police said, describing him as approximately 40 years old and about 5’10. An image from the video shows him in a construction worker’s hat and vest, wearing white gloves and carrying what appears to be a tool case.

“We must stand together strongly against this act, which was intended to frighten and divide our community,” Ms. Burwell said.

The posters included images of the Confederate battle flag, as well as the words “Huzzah for Dixie” and “I wish I was in the land of cotton,” a lyric from the song “Dixie,” something of an unofficial anthem for the Confederacy.

They appeared to be posted on bulletin boards for specific programs, including boards dedicated to the Center for Israel Studies and to American Studies month, as well as one outside the university’s center for diversity and inclusion. Ms. Burwell said that the posters were found in four separate buildings on the university’s Washington campus.

Dr. Kendi, a historian and author who joined the university this year, released a separate statement in which he tried to comfort students, “especially students of color and Jewish students, who may be feeling yet another rush of fear from tonight’s posters.”

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“I want you to know that you are a model of triumph,” he wrote. “And when you triumph you become a threat to people who would rather you fail.”

He continued, “If they can’t keep you down by discrimination, then they have attempted to keep you down by terror, by instilling fear in you, in me.”

This is at least the second time this year that racist symbols were discovered on the school’s campus. In May, bananas were found hanging from nooses on campus the same day that a student, Taylor Dumpson, became the first black woman elected student body president. The F.B.I. said at the time that it was helping the university investigate.

Ms. Dumpson and other student government leaders released a statement Tuesday, calling the Confederate posters “horrifying.”

“The significance of this occurring as our country continues to struggle with its history of white supremacy also cannot be ignored,” they said, expressing their support for the investigation “to bring whoever committed this act to justice.”

A public conversation about what happened will be held at the university Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Burwell said.

“I ask you to join me in standing together and show that we will not be intimidated,” she said. “AU will respond strongly to attempts designed to harm and create fear. Instead, we will recommit to creating a community that does not stand by. When one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked.”

Follow Jonah Bromwich on Twitter: @Jonesieman.

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