The University of Mississippi was subjected to an act of vandalism earlier in this week, wherein someone hung a noose and a discontinued Georgia flag around the neck of the statue of James H. Meredith, the first black student to be enrolled at the university in 1962. The statue commemorates the defiance of racism in a time when American society was still built upon the backs of people of color, and the statue’s vandalism was taken as a very serious racist statement that many fear will extend to the black students at the college.
Students of the University of Mississippi rallied around the statue in opposition of the vandals and in support of racial equality. One student held a sign that read, “Symbolic racism is still racism.”
Three freshman students, whose names have not been released, are suspected to have committed the act of vandalism as a prank. The students were members of fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Alpha chapter, but have since been expelled from it. The school has also suspended the fraternity chapter entirely pending investigation. It is safe to say that this has gone far further than the three men anticipated, as even the FBI has become involved.
The FBI’s investigation into the vandalism of the University of Mississippi’s statue is to judge whether the incident has made any infractions on federal laws.
There have also been other acts of racism that the administrators need to consider taking action against, including a black student being verbally assaulted while alcohol was thrown at her while she walked near the University of Mississippi campus. This, however, does not seem to be as big of an issue to the school, as it has not made such a splash in the media as the vandalism story has. It is unclear whether the school is also investigating this attack.
The students responsible deserve to be made an example of, as fear of racially charged violence is rightfully and rapidly spreading. There is no reason for these serious acts should be taken lightly. Young white men need to realize that there are consequences to their actions and that they must think before doing something as obviously stupid as this. The University of Mississippi is treating the racist vandalism extremely seriously, as is to be expected, but there is no way of knowing whether the suspects will be let off with a light punishment.
The action that the university takes on this issue of racism on the campus will help to solidify the state of affairs in Mississippi; many believe that there is still racial tension and that the multi-racial image that the school portrays is an illusion. If the school’s administrators indeed choose to persecute the vandals in order to make an example of them, that would make a loud statement that racism is not accepted no matter what the status or intentions of the people involved are. However, if they decide to let this issue settle quietly with little to no punishment, then it will be clear that racial equality is still a very prominent issue that needs to be addressed in the state.
Opinion By Robin Syrenne