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‘We Are Hurt’: UMass Students Upset After Racist Incidents

September 28, 2021

Students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst are outraged after a racist email blast targeted Black student organizations, the latest in what UMass vice chancellor for diversity Nefertiti Walker called a “disturbing increase in anti-Black racist incidents.”

The email, sent on Sept. 17 from a nonstudent account and signed “UMass coalition for a better society,” uses derogatory language to describe how Black students look and talk, reported, asserting that these students only made it to UMass Amherst because they were given an “easy pass.” The email, which was shared by a Black student, is “vile, blatantly racist, and violently offensive,” Walker said in a statement Thursday.

“We, the Black Student Union, are absolutely appalled with the disgusting, racist email that we, along with other black student organizations on campus, have received from an anti-black group of people,” the UMass Amherst Black Student Union said in a social media post. “We are angry. We are hurt. We are tired.”

The email attack is one of a number of recent racist, anti-Black incidents, Walker said. Student organizations have received racist messages through online “Contact Us” forms, and in August, a passing driver yelled anti-Black epithets at group of Black students on campus.

The UMass Amherst Black Student Union said it took the university almost a month to address the driver incident, adding that its slow response to racial incidents compared to nonracial incidents “is not reflective of a university that claims to be ‘committed in policy, principle, and practice to maintaining an environment which prohibits discriminatory behavior and provides equal opportunity for all persons.’”

The university has a long history of racist incidents. Black students were attacked on campus in 1986 and 1988, prompting students to go on a hunger strike to protest racism at the institution. Four years later, in 1992, a Black student was punched in his dorm room and had human feces smeared on his door.

In response to the latest incident, Walker said in a statement that the university has begun a “multi-unit collaborative investigation into the hateful acts.” Additionally, she said that the UMass Police Department is working with UMass IT to identify the person who sent the emails. In an email Monday, UMass president Marty Meehan condemned the email message, calling it “appalling and disgusting,” and said his office is working with the university to investigate and to hold the perpetrator “accountable wherever they are.”

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