Racist email on UMass Amherst campus raises questions

Increase in ‘anti-Black, racist incidents’ at UMass-Amherst, vice chancellor says

AMHERST, Mass. — UMass-Amherst is seeing an increase in “anti-Black racist incidents” on campus that are targeting African American and Black students, the school’s vice-chancellor, and chief diversity officer said.

And university officials and campus police are investigating after an anti-Black racist email was sent to numerous Black-centered student groups, Nefertiti Walker said in a letter to the campus community dated Thursday.

“The content of these emails is vile, blatantly racist, and violently offensive,” Walker said.

The racist and inflammatory email that is getting national attention continues to raise a lot of questions at the UMass Amherst campus. The Black Student Union held a meeting Sunday night regarding that email sent to them.

Those students tell Boston 25 that email was sent out in several rounds to different black groups here on campus starting around September 8th. They say they’re hurt and disappointed but not surprised.

A warning, the language in this story may be triggering to many.

“Every year since I’ve been here there’s been a racist incident and it feels like it’s only gotten worse,” said UMass junior Zach Steward. “It feels like this place doesn’t care about me it has never cared about me and never will.

While the signs on the UMass campus ask for dignity and respect, the email did just the opposite.

“If I was a freshman I would’ve easily got angry,” said UMass Senior

Sade Brooks. “Now that I’m older, that email really has jealousy and envy written all over it. It’s anonymous so that in and of itself says something. It is very cowardly, it is clearly inflammatory in every single sentence.”

Sentences like these:

“We look down upon you, we instantly know in all manners from your language which most of you still speak in some broken form of Ebonics or to ghetto-speak to where your from (third-world sewers in America bought and paid for by the us taxpayer) to how you live (like hoodrats) to how you appear (fro hair, big lips, black skin) you are different.”

“Who would openly admit to being friends/acquaintances with white supremacists? Why would they?” Steward wrote in an OP-ED piece in the Amherst Wire asking the school to better respond to these incidents.

A short time later the Vice-Chancellor sent a message to the student body reading, “Our priority is both to support our impacted students and investigate these incidents to the fullest extent. Both processes are ongoing.”

Also, “there have been other acts of anti-Black hate imposed on our community through the ‘Contact Us’ online forms of registered student organizations, as well as an incident involving the offender driving by and yelling an anti-Black racist epithet at a group of Black students,” Walker said.

The Black Student Union called out the university about that incident it says happened last month before classes started. They are asking why the school waited so long to address that. We reached out to the school to ask that question, but have not yet heard back.

In Thursday’s letter, Walker said the school condemns “all acts of anti-Black racism and will work to diminish their intent to cause harm to Black students on campus.”

The university IT department is assisting in the investigation to determine the sender of the emails, Walker said.

In supporting Black students impacted and targeted by these emails, the following is ongoing, she said:

- Administrators from multiple campus units have followed up and connected the students to campus resources

- Student affairs and campus life administrators have held office hours dedicated to giving affected students space to gather for dialogue and support.

- All students impacted have received emails, calls and outreach from leaders within the administration in multiple campus units to dialogue, receive support and create opportunities for healing.

- Staff working with student groups targeted have been updated and provided direction on how to support impacted students.

“Our priority is both to support our impacted students and investigate these incidents to the fullest extent,” Walker said.

The vice-chancellor said these incidents should be reported to the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

“We stand in solidarity and support of our Black students, and in opposition to any anti-Black racism,” Walker said. “Please continue to report these hateful acts, even if the act is not directed to you. Active Bystander engagement is important to eradicating racism on our campus.”

“We feel overlooked,” said Brooks. “We feel outnumbered, we feel unheard walking through campus and our classrooms it doesn’t feel good at all.”

“Just to see some of my white peers even the ones that I don’t know acting like there’s nothing wrong acting like everything is all hunky-dory copacetic and like this isn’t a problem, it’s frustrating and it hurts.”

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This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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