Someone posted some flyers with Confederate flags, the message “Huzzah, Dixie” and branches of raw cotton on some bulletin boards at American University last night. The school is calling it a “defacing property bias-related incident” (Really. That’s how university folk talk nowadays. I don’t know what sort of lame-o says things like “Huzzah, Dixie” though.)
It’s big news in Washington, D.C. and being picked up by major outlets around the nation.
— American University Police (@AmericanUPolice) September 27, 2017
I understand the concern about this sort of thing when you have kooky neo-confederates prancing around with tiki torches and form fitting wardrobes, but I’m still cynical enough to not want to take this incident at face value. Not yet anyway. I’m not calling anyone a liar. I’ve just seen a lot of “bias-related” incidents turn out to be fraudulent stunts. And let’s face it while college communities take themselves seriously in the extreme, they are typically very unserious and prone to hysteria.
Remember when Indiana University went on lockdown over a suspected KKK member walking around campus with a whip and it turned out to be a Dominican monk wearing the traditional white habit of his order and carrying a rosary?
Mere hours after a professor unveiled on Tuesday his plan for American University’s forthcoming new Antiracist Research and Policy Center, someone hung 10 Confederate flag signs with cotton stalks stapled to them around campus. The signs included the phrase “Huzzah for Dixie.”
The center, which was created in response to another racially motivated incident last year, will be headed by history professor and bestselling author Ibram X. Kendi. Several posters were found outside Kendi’s classroom.
In response to the Confederate flag and slave imagery, faculty and students vowed Wednesday to defy racism.
University President Sylvia Burwell hosted a campus town hall Wednesday to provide updates on the university’s efforts to identify the suspect and to allow students a chance to voice their concerns. Burwell, who was at times emotional, said the incident made her both angry and sad.
The school unveiling it’s new Antiracist Research and Policy Center, whatever that is, could have provoked racist elements to act out. It could have been an opportunity for a sick practical joke. It could also be a great way to build some publicity for the new policy center: Look how necessary we are.
The cotton seems like a nod to a recent incident in which stalks of raw cotton for flower arranging on sale at a craft store sparked accusations of racism on social media.
The posters certainly make a very convenient foil for the head of the new Antiracism whatchamacallit. It really is a public relations windfall.
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) September 27, 2017
There’s a lot of grandstanding going on.
Phillip Morse, head of @AUPublicSafety, addressing students: "University police stands with you in unity against this act of cowardice."
— The Eagle (@TheEagleOnline) September 27, 2017
I thought this tweet was indicative of the non-serious nature of campus reactions to incidents like this.
"This is not a person of interest. The person in the photographs, in the video… is the suspect who committed this crime," Phil Morse says pic.twitter.com/IrRnqH10fB
— American University (@AmericanU) September 27, 2017
The person is not suspected of committing the crime. He is the suspect who committed this crime. If it’s known that this man posted the flyers then is he really just a “suspect?” I’ve seen a lot of video showing this guy in a hardhat walking through hallways and none showing him tacking anything up to a bulletin board. Maybe that video exists. I just haven’t seen it.
What exactly was the crime anyway? Displaying extremely poor taste? I’ve seen it called “vandalism” but is it vandalism to pin something to a bulletin board? Vandalism and defacing of property implies actual damage.
Again, I’m not saying this was a hoax. I’m also not saying it wasn’t a hoax. I’m saying that incidents like this often turn out to be bogus and assuming that fraud is not a possibility here is an irrational and emotional response. An emotional response was obviously the intent of whomever posted the flyers.
Who benefits most from the emotional response is a question people should be asking.