At a time when racial tensions are already running so high in this country, it seems the hits just keep on coming. A mere week after racist graffiti was found on the campus of Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, students at nearby University of Michigan in Ann Arbor discovered racist fliers at Haven and Mason halls on the school’s central campus. On Monday, September 26, students began posting pictures of the fliers to their social media accounts, which mostly seemed to target members of the black community. One of the posters featured an article titled, “Why White Woman Shouldn’t Date Black Men,” which stated black men are more likely to physically abuse them, give them STD’s and produce children with low IQ’s, among other twaddle. Another flier featured a stop sign and read, “Euro-Americans! STOP apologizing, living in fear and denying your heritage.” The bottom of the same flier read, “All Right. Be White.” According to a letter signed by the school’s President, Vice President for Student Life, Provost, and Vice President for Equity, Inclusion and Academic Affairs, the vile propaganda has since been removed.
Part of the letter also reads, “Messages of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination have no place at the University of Michigan. Targeted attacks against groups of people serve only to tear apart our university community. While we continue to defend any individual’s right to free speech on our campus, these types of attacks directed toward any individual or group, based on a belief or characteristic, are inconsistent with the university’s values of respect, civility and equality. We also have a responsibility to create a learning environment that is free of harassment. These are core values and guiding principles that will help us as we strive to live up to our highest ideals…In this time of heightened political strife, we believe these values take on even more importance as people and beliefs are targets of divisive rhetoric. But amidst these challenging times, our core values can help ground our community.”
Though students have been advised of the services and resources available to them regarding hate crimes or incidents of discrimination on campus, the university’s Division of Public Safety and Security declined to comment on the matter and indicated any questions they receive in the future will be handled by a designated school spokesperson. In response to the incident, 22-year-old African-American graduate student Lawrielle West said, “It’s not shocking, but it’s shocking. People may not always say things, but they think it.” West, who is pursuing a graduate degree in social work, also said while some black students on campus are taking the matter very seriously, many are taking it in stride, believing it to be the actions of a few attention-seeking trolls. However, she found no comfort in the letter, stating “It was so cut and dried. I didn’t feel any emotion in it at all.”
There is no confirmation whether the posting of the fliers has anything to do with the Wolverines’ football game against Penn State two days prior to the incident, where a number of the team’s athletes raised their fists in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick during the National Anthem. However, it would not be surprising if it were later revealed to be in retaliation against those asserting their actual First Amendment rights through peaceful protest.