Racial Incidents at U.Va.

Hello Charlottesville — I’m Cari, and it is an honor to be blogging for you.

I don’t want all of my guest posts to be about U.Va. but I did want to write about recent racial incidents that have occurred here. As many of you know, black students have reported a number of racist threats since the beginning of the semester, including several comments shouted from cars and a racist epithet found on a student’s door. There have also been reported threats against a gay student.

beta bridgeThis week, racist graffiti was discovered on Beta Bridge, a bridge that students traditionally repaint to celebrate events and student groups. A summary from Student Council President Jequeatta Upton:

On the Kappa side there were the words:


There were also pictures of a red eye, breasts, and a woman in a
spread-eagle pose. Along with the picture of the breasts was a message
that read: “Bitch/Tits… In The House.”

On the B.U.C.K.S. side was a painting of a bloody face and the message
“We’ll Be Back.”

In response, students held a rally to condemn these incidents, and President Casteen issued a statement to the community. A march to the lawn is scheduled for tomorrow, and some groups have suggested wearing black t-shirts to this weekend’s football game.

My impression is that while there is a great deal of concern among students, nobody really knows what to do about these incidents and the racial tensions on grounds. Student groups have held a number of symbolic protests, but these events are attended by a core group of activists and derided as ineffective by many others. Education efforts are also a hard sell, since no one believes she needs a lesson in diversity.

Students have offered a number of suggestions that the administration should consider, such as addressing student safety concerns with additional lighting, security cameras, and a better system for reporting these incidents. But no one really knows how to stop the people who are depraved and cowardly enough to yell racist threats from moving cars.

However, we can address the damage that these incidents inflict on the community. While the vast majority of U.Va. students are quick to condemn racism, students who have not been directly targeted don’t seem to grasp the effect that these incidents have on members of the targeted communities. There is a lot of resistance to education from students who don’t see a problem beyond these isolated incidents. But students have been made to feel threatened and humiliated in a place where they should feel welcome and safe, and we need to take their feelings seriously.

Some have suggested that those responsible are not from U.Va. but rather from the surrounding areas — something students might like to believe is true — but no matter who is responsible, these incidents should concern both the University and the surrounding area, since anyone who would target our students is a surely a threat to the larger community as well.

In the U.Va. blogosphere, my friends Blake and The Red Stater have posted their own commentary about these incidents and recent discussion.

24 thoughts on “Racial Incidents at U.Va.”

  1. A thing I find interesting–speaking as someone who regularly sees small groups of first year students at UVa–is that the white students appear largely clueless that anything is going on at all, and the black and Hispanic students seem all to be quite, quite aware of what’s going on. So you get someone saying “did you hear about ….” and the white half of the class looks blank and the black/Hispanic half nods and talks.

    It really kind of strikingly demonstrates that these kids live in different worlds on the same campus. I think sometimes the white kids forget that–they think that the nonwhite kids are inhabiting the same campus, but then these moments arise in class and the nonwhite kids suddenly seem to be privy to something the white kids are totally unaware of.

  2. Okay, I’m probably just admitting how clueless I am, but can somebody explain to me the racial nature of the grafitti? It all sounds pretty creepy and sexually threatening, but I just don’t get the racist angle. Does the “G-Society”, “G-Wizard” and “G-Bug” have some coded meaning?

    I figure, I’m not the only person who doesn’t know this stuff and, if I don’t ask, I’m not going to learn.

  3. I with Harry on this one. Does one idiot with a can of spray paint really speak for anyone other than himself?
    I deal with students regularly and I find most segeration is self selecting. Many of the non white students prefer to be with their own race. I have found that alot of racial tension comes not from students but from groups outside the University community. Last weeks altercation came from two 18 male from northern Virginia. The tried to force their way into a closed party and when denied enterance produced a lagre handgun.

  4. Cari and your linked authord, Melanie Mayhew, need a lesson in journalism. I can’t evaluate what you’re talking about because you don’t give any facts other than ambiguous references.

    Melanie’s write-up talked about a birthday banner with a racial slur, but does not publish what that was. You show graffiti with “G-Society” and such, yet most people don’t know what it’s supposed to mean. I did a Google on “G-Society” and “G-Wizard” and not much came up, except possibly a reference to “Gay” concerns. But you are immediately preceding and following with ‘racism’, yet gay issues are not to be confused with racism.

    So, “whatever” is my reaction to the ‘whatever’ type of post you published.

  5. Grand Wizard – was the title used by the overall leader of earliest form of the Ku Klux Klan, during Reconstruction in the South… In the Klan’s second incarnation the Grand Wizard title applied to the organization’s main officer at a state or regional level. “Grand Dragon” was a common variation upon this title signifying the same role. Grand Wizard is the rank attained by the notorious white supremacist politician David Duke prior to leaving the organization. -Wikipedia

    I’m not sure about “G-society” but the “G-Wizard” and the illustration, combined with the fact that the graffiti is a defacement of a painting by B.U.C.K.S. (Brothers United Celebrating Knowledge and Success, a black organization) made the racial message pretty clear.

    I’m not sure what specifically was scrawled on the birthday banner but it’s really not hard to guess from their description. On another student’s door, the slur was “Nigger/I hate Jesus”

    I am not a journalist, but I am trying to describe what is going on here because it is very real to the students, and there is a lot of tension and outrage over these incidents. I probably should have explained what B.U.C.K.S. is and why we assume the message to be racial in the original post — I apologize for any confusion.

  6. Cari,

    Thanks for the explanation. I suppose it could be a reference to Grand Wizard, but unless somebody can help us complete the puzzle as to “G-Society” and “G-Bug”, it sounds like a bit of a stretch to me. I mean, if “G” equals “Grand”, then we’ve got “Grand Society” and “Grand Bug”? What would that mean? (I remember the Great Society and the Super Beetle, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.)

    The bridge incident aside, though, these drive-by shoutings and nasty comments on people’s doors do strike me as particularly cowardly acts. That is, the perpetrators seem to want to harrass or intimidate others, but are afraid to do it face-to-face. It’s only by furtive scribbling or anonymous shouts that they dare act.

    I’ve got to tell you that these are not the kind of actions that I see happening in Charlottesville, outside of the University community. (Others who live in different neighborhoods may have different experiences than I.) Frankly, it sounds to me like the work of first year students who are ill-prepared for the responsibility of living ourside of whatever community they came from and acting out of whatever sorry bit of “courage” they get from a few beers.

  7. Are you telling me that there is a group of Black males calling themselves calling themselves B.U.C.K.S.? Isn’t that kinda of racist all by itself?
    From The Racial Slur Database http://www.rsdb.org.
    Buck:This word has been used since the 17th century to refer to a male Negro – no matter whether slave or not.

  8. I have a unique perspective. I was born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia and now I attend school at the University of Virginia. First of all let me say that when I was in “real Charlottesville” (home) racial incidents did happen. These incidents are not isolated to the University of Virginia by any means.
    My mother has had racial jokes made to her at her place of work, only to be told that she “shouldn’t be socializing at work in the first place.” She’s a resourceful woman so she contacted the right people and let’s just say not everyone has the same position that they started with. In school there was a boy harassed, arrested, and questioned by the school resource officer all because he was wearing a bandanna (they assumed he was in a gang). You may say “well that’s logical,” but do police go around questioning people with a confederate flag, assuming they are in the KKK just because many associate the flag with racism?
    We all can think back to the time when an Albemarle sheriff claimed that a black male in a hat, blue jeans, and white shirt shot him only to later find out that he had did it himself. Like I said these incidents are not isolated to the University of Virginia.

    I want to respond to some of the things said about university students. Most of the students up here who do not hear about the racial incidents are either lying or allowing themselves to be ignorant. The Cav. Daily gets reports all the time about racial incidents but they don’t print them. Then there are tons of emails going out through various organizations explaining what happened. I have received the same email from 5 or 6 organizations (only 3 were black organizations). Not to mention the email sent out the ENTIRE student body by the president himself. Like I said if students don’t know what’s going on it’s because they choose to ignore the facts or don’t try to be informed.
    I don’t have much evidence (mostly because the police and administration don’t peruse these issues like they should) but I don’t think these are “the work of first year students who are ill-prepared for the responsibility of living outside of whatever community they came from and acting out of whatever sorry bit of “courage” they get from a few beers.” Why? Well for one reason first years can’t have cars, which make it kind of hard for them to yell out of one. Secondly, this is the beginning of the year. Its hard for me to believe that first years know enough about grounds and the area to know where a black Christian lives on the lawn, to know that an apartment belongs to black students (another point: Eagles Landing is far off grounds. First years have to live on grounds and I doubt they have learned the area so well that they have ventured down 5th street extended). Thirdly, there is an openly racist fraternity on-grounds that has been kicked off campuses around the country for racial terrorism. I won’t say their name (until enough racial incident pisses me off enough to do so) but ill give you a clue the foundation of their fraternity is founded upon the “spirit of Robert E. Lee.”

    Finally I want to address two comments that I find to be incredibly incentive, ridiculous, and part of the persistent problem of racism in this community. “I know what “G-Spot” means. ” – IamDaMan3 …… “So, “whatever” is my reaction to the ‘whatever’ type of post you published.” -Sympatico
    As far as “IamDaMan” perhaps you are unable to deal with racial issues in a mature manner but let me tell you, as a black student who has seen 6 acts of racism within one week, your “joke” is the furthest thing from funny. Sympactico, I think you were looking for any reason to dismiss the actions because you would like to do as many people do, hide from the reality of racism. Perhaps I am overly bitter, in which case I apologize.
    Something MUST be done. These cowards have the right to be as racist as they want to be (I tend to believe many, if not most, Americans are, regardless of race.) but they cross the line when start acting on their stupidity (not ignorance, these people know they are wrong but they do it anyway.)

    I’ll end with a quote I think you all should remember when you are teaching your children about life’s ins and outs.

    “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” -Dennis Leary

  9. That is was a long post there. First off, I have no idea what “G-Whatever” means. I think half the people here doesn’t know either. I was making a bad attempt at humor.

    I will admit to having some type of prejudices. I don’t judge someone by the color of their skin nor by their gender. I usually look at someone by the clothes they wear. Now, if you are wearing baggy pants down to your ankles and showing your ass crack. Then chances are I think you are idiot. I don’t think about your culture that says looking like gangsters is hip hop. If you look like a guy who is looks like a criminal, don’t be surpise everyone assumes you are.

  10. Now we are getting somewhere. It is best that we talk about these issue rather than pretend we don’t feel a certain way.
    “If you look like a guy who is looks like a criminal, don’t be surpise everyone assumes you are.”
    So now all criminals have baggy pants, wear long gold and/or silver chains, speak a certain way, and are part of the hip hop culutre? Or is it that all members who dress according to the hip hop culture look like criminals? You know this is part of the reason why blacks were choosen as slaves, they stand out. In otherwords, when a white person commits a crime wearing: a business suit, polo shirt and kakis, or maybe its a redneck wearing beat up jeans and a dirty shirt, the only people they represent are themselves. When whites do something they represent one person regardless of what they are wearing, but when a black or any other noticable minority does something, wearing clothes that resamble a culture that many of them have become acostomed to, then they represent a whole culture of ignorance and criminal activity. Let me give you a more concrete example: When Timothy McVey (sp?) decided to blow up the Oaklahoma City building he was considered, well, a criminal. 9/11 highjackers, on the otherhand, are considered terrorist. Both resulted in horrible loss of life and both were terrible, the only difference (besides loss of life which is not to be minimized) is that the hijackers had darker skin. Now when people think of a terrorist they think of a muslim with brown skin, when many think of a ganster criminal they think of blacks. In other words, the only to not look like a criminal is to assimilate to white culture.

    “First off, I have no idea what “G-Whatever” means.” My issue wasnt with you not knowing what something means, my problem was you making a joke about a very serious situation only a day or two after it happened.

    I don’t want to bite anyone’s head off. I really think forums like this need to be used to discuss issues like that. It gives us the freedom to type whatever we want without anyone knowing who were are if we feel ashamed to say them in public. Many, if not most, Americans have prejudices and it sometimes (though I think less then people would like to believe) comes from a lack of education on the subject. Sites like this should be used to iron out our differences and misconceptions so we arent runing around: beating up class president contenders, having black face parties, writing slurs on doors, threatening to kill someone based on their sexual preference, insulting one’s religion or screaming out of our car.

  11. Now, basically what I am saying is that when was the last time you saw a doctor, lawyer, or someone with good job wearing clothes that make them look not as respectable. If I went to the dentist, white or black, and he came out wearing bling bling, that would be the last time I would ever go in there. If you want people to respect you, then you must respect yourself. If crimnals are taking your looks, then it is time for you to start reinventing yourself. Me personally I would never dress like a red neck. I would never wear nascar shirts or protray myself like I am white trash. Even if I like Nascar, I want to present myself appoarchable.

    And you talk about the white culture, hell I am seeing all of these wannabes walking around like they are cool. I just laugh at them because they are just lemmings trying to fit in. Again, white or black, I will not give them the same level of respect as I would to someone who presents themselve in a better manner.

    What I hate seeing is how a black person can obtain a level of respect but they are look down upon. I think Collen Powell should be our next president. Yet many black leaders look at him like “Uncle Tom” or “house slave” to Bush. I feel bad for the guy because he is a proven leader. And he used his hard work to obtain his level and not the color of his skin. But we can never see him run for president because *gosh* he is a republican.

    Hey UVA guy, what is your thought about various so call rap artists using the N’word like in every word on their album. I think if you want people to respect you then you have to realize that word is racist. It isn’t anyone’s word. It is an english word. Now it is becoming trivalize because our youth uses it like hot cakes. Hell, I don’t call my buddies crackers.

  12. I will first say I think it’s interesting how you change the subject to “rappers using the N word” and you asked me as if I can represent everyone in my race. Look despite what you and many other people may think, blacks do not look down on people who have “made it.” It is quite the opposite. I generally wear polo shirts and jeans that fit, not because I want to be like something I’m not and not because I look down on other styles, its just my personal preference. I got into one of the top schools in the country through hard work and devotion. I have yet to come across a black person who hasnt congratulated me, said “good job”, even the most “ghetto” or “thugish” people (as many would call them) have said good job and I admire you. Black leaders do NOT look down on people who have made it. Most blacks I know have a great deal of respect for Colin Powell. Hell in the early 90s when Clearence Thomas was up for the Supreme Court seat blacks stood behind him despite his ideology which works against black interest.

    “I feel bad for the guy because he is a proven leader. And he used his hard work to obtain his level and not the color of his skin. But we can never see him run for president because *gosh* he is a republican.” That statement is rediculus I dont know where to start. First of all, in order for Colin Powell to run for president (which his wife is vehemently opposed to) he would have to gain the REPUBLICAN nomination. If he couldnt run for president it would be because he didnt get the Republican nomination. Let me tell you, if Colin Powell were to run for president I, along with many blacks would vote for him, Condi Rice is a different story.

    “And he used his hard work to obtain his level and not the color of his skin.” As opposed to….. what? The blacks who obtained their positions ONLY because of the color of their skin? I dont understand the purpose of that statement. Obviously a subtle anti Affirmative Action statement(BTW Colin Powell supports AA).

    As for the rappers I dont have much respect for a lot of them. However, despite what you see in the news a lot of them do things to give back to the community. “Snoop Dogg” established a football team for inner city kids to keep them off the streets. “Nelly” has a scholarship, along with many others. “Juvenile” went back to the projects they grew up in and offered to help them go to school. You see you are judging people, once again, by outside appoerances that just happen to be different from yours.

    “If crimnals are taking your looks, then it is time for you to start reinventing yourself.” Not ALL criminals dress in hip hop fashion!!!! It’s just the most noticable group of people because they look different. Like I said if a white person commits a crime wearing a polo and kaki paints does that mean everyone wearing those clothes fit the discription of a criminal? Would you suggest people stop wearing polos and kakis? No you wouldnt because when they do something they represent themselves. When a black person does something it somehow comes to represent the entire race and/or culture. Your statements obviously prove that.

  13. UVA08 – I was not dismissing this issue; I was attempting to make aware of the poor presentation. I’m 43 years old and it takes more than some allusions to matters I am not involved in on a daily basis to allow me to grasp what I’m reading. In return, if I were to post on subjects such as international trade, computer science, business, insightful travel or any any one of a dozen subjects I deem myself competent in, I make an effort to make myself understood.

    Issues such as this one are dismissed all the time because of poor presentation. This is typical of young people who do not have enough experience to ‘write or speak to the audience’ in an adequate manner. There is no shame as you and your young friends have a lot to learn. So did I once upon a time. So do I still, yet I have made progress in the last 2 decades.

    I do believe racism is an alarming issue, particularly in America, that has never really progressed much in its 300 years of existence. Sure, we have more impartial laws. Sure we have a few high profile cases that vindicate the rule of law we Americans claim to have. But by and large, *everything* is still dictated by color, gender, political affiliation and last but not least, inter-personal connections.

    The *only* way this will ever change is when one group empowers themselves over another group. Witness the domination of white women in Middle America over white men. On the high-end of the money stratosphere, women are still mostly country-club wives. On the low-end of the asset scale, women are even worse off. But in the largest group, the in-betweens, don’t get married without a pre-nup, let’s just say that.

    If you realize the depth and breadth of the racial problem, I think you will become depressed. Or angry, which seems to be your case. Because the person armed with this knowledge will come to realize even a Saint like Martin Luther King can’t have much of a lasting impact.

    The only suggestion I have is blacks as a whole could attain the single invincible weapon that no one can deflect: empowerment through becoming more educated and more asset building than their WASP counterparts. Impossible? Perhaps. But blacks won’t ever get there in 100 or 200 years and spending any disposable income they have on criminal emulating ghetto pants.

    I am harsh, no doubt. If I were from a low-income black environment, I may very well do the same thing. But, then, I’d have to carry some of the blame for my attitude. This is not to say the blacks at UVA in question are like that. I don’t know. I can tell you that unless I’m from a wealthy black family, I wouldn’t go to “good’ole boy UVA”. I’d go to a black college or better, study in Europe where racism is mostly targeting at Arabs. In fact, if all black students boycotted UVA, it’s possible things would finally crack open to show the real inside of Virginia (and most of the South): rotten to the core.

  14. I attended UVa in the late 60s when it was still a mostly all-white male school. I was a member of the Southern Student Organizing Committee, a group for white students who supported the civil rights movement(and later the antiwar movement) who attended southern colleges. I worked for an alternative newspaper the Virginia Weekly.
    At time identifying oneself’s as a radical at UVa was not easy. The frats dominated social life and student gov’t. Often faculty were more liberal than fellow students. The Prism coffeehouse played a big part in our lives, those who us who rejected the frat culture.
    One time when I was circulating a petition in the dorms that called for increased black enrollment,black studies courses,etc I was physically assaulted by another student who kept screeching about blacks marrying his sister.
    You would not believe the oppostion in some of the student body to co-education. The idea was “girls” were all right to bring in for frat parties (where maybe you could get them drunk and rape them), but they didn’t belong in the classroom. They would “destroy tradition.” Tradition. That was the thing back then.
    When I stopped wearing coats and ties to class, that was a radical statement.Identifying oneself’s with the student movement and the counterculture movement, supporting peace and civil rights marked one as an Outsider then.
    I thought that those faced with these issues in the present day might enjoy this bit of history from an old hippie-radical freak alum, who is still trying to “carry it on” in today’s not very favorable climate. To UVA NOW, the minority student groups, the gays and lesbians, all the progressive student organizations I extend my best wishes.
    One last comment. I do not like it when I see people putting down the kids of today, their dress, their music,etc. Those of us with long hair and beads had to go through the same thing back then from the conservatives.
    Whether hiphop,goth, punk they are doing what we did, trying to forge some sort of identity opposed to dominant,oppressive culture. We had our symbols,they have theirs.Hair and tiedye and mini-skirts then, piercings,tattoos, thongs,dyed hair now.
    Continuing to “let my freak flag fly”

  15. I don’t normally post much, but I have to make a comment or two:

    1. I think the fact of this discussion’s existence alone, especially considering its civility, indicates great progress by our society over the past 50 years. The discussion of hatred within the community is being carried out with passion but without hate. The tone of everyone’s posts seems to be in the vein of trying to explain and inform instead of tearing each other apart. If the moderators aren’t deleteng too many inappropriate posts then I would have to say that I am quite proud of the group here.

    2. With the previous statement in mind, I would like to point out that the terms “cracker” and “redneck” are pretty offensive. While they do not rise to the level of the N-word, they have the same exact effect of grouping people together so that they may be judged negatively as one. As my Italian heritage balks to hear “dago” or “wop”, though those terms have never been applied to me in hate, my American heritage does the same with “cracker” and “redneck”, regardless of those who take the labels for themselves in pride.

    Those things said, I am looking forward to hearing how the investigation into the incidents goes. If anyone has more information please share it. (The last thing I saw was an update in the Cavalier Daily online which said that the original reports on the graffiti containing a “KKK” symbol were incorrect – any news?)

  16. Yes, that report about “KKK” being written on the bridge was incorrect. As far as developing news, the Alumni Association of the University of Virginia is offering several thousand dollar reward for information leading to an arrest, conviction of anyone guilty of grafitii or damaging University property (I assmue they found some way to consider what happened on Beta Bridge a crime). This information was sent to me by one of the various organizations on grounds. I have not heard it from a major news outlet quite yet so I am still going to consider it a rumor. If this is true it would be a MAJOR step foward. Can you imagine being a broke college student and having the chance to stick a few thousand dollars in your pocket?

  17. BrianD – although your heart may or may not be in the right place, unfortunately, your assessment of ‘progress’ is incorrect. You see, nothing has ever been accomplished in the world without the backing of ‘forces’. For instance – and this is of contemporary concern – labor would have never gained any rights or progress without the unification of the labor pool through the creation and actions of Labor Unions. It is simple and obvious human nature to want to acquire possessions and power over others. Those of any status quo will not give by the goodness of their heart to those less fortunate. There are exceptions, but this isn’t the rule.

    Now then, by promoting the idea of existing progress, even though progress is being and has been reverted the last 30 years, you encourage people into thinking things are going just fine the way they are. This is not the case. So, precisely when attention needs to be paid, people will not see the disaster coming until it’s too late.

    Complacency is the mother of all decline.

  18. I hate to be the lone cynic here, but it strikes me as strange that after 19 comments no one has suggested the mere possibility that these alleged “incidents” may be fabrications of the racial grievance industry to gin up concern and the attendant funding that comes with it. I mean, let’s face it, it’s no fun being Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or even Dean Turner without having the menace of racist whitey to battle.

    One does not need a Phi Beta Kappa key to find incidents of hate crime hoaxes on other college campuses, just type the words into google and you’ll find lots of examples in which the alleged victim later admitted to being the perpetrator.

    Perhaps these racial incidents in C’ville are real and did happen as the victims assert, but some of the circumstances surrounding them are downright bizarre. Wasn’t there an African-American candidate for student government a few years ago who complained of an 11th hour racially-motivated assault? As I recall, her white opponent in a close race was more or less presented with a fait accompli and dropped out of the race, handing it to her amid the outrage that such a thing would happen at UVA in the 21st century. But there were no witnesses to the alleged assault. In fact, there were no clues of any kind left by the ephemeral assailant.

    Am I the only one that this strikes as strange?

  19. “Cryptic graffiti scrawled on the University of Virginia’s Beta Bridge – including “G Wizard,” “G Society,” “G Bug,” a red eye and derogatory images of women – was not racially motivated, the FBI has concluded.”

    That, according to a report in the Daily Progress (9/9/05). I guess it was just a case of somebody writing graffiti on a bridge where people have been writing graffiti for decades?

  20. this boggles my mind. twice now, the university has called in the FBI to investigate alleged “racial” incidents at UVA while a serial rapist has been on the loose for eight years. come on…if you’re going to call the feds, why not use them to help catch a dangerous preditor rather than some ignoramus with a can of spray paint???

  21. well because it is consider a hate crime. It took the police department some odd years to determine the rapist was black.

Comments are closed.