Washington State University police have “hit a dead end” on who created a racist video that surfaced three weeks ago, but WSU President Kirk Schulz says he has “a lot of concerns about race on campus.”
Lt. Mike Larsen said the department worked with information technology professionals in an effort to identify the person who edited racist content into the video without success.
“We hit a dead end,” he said.
The original video, which follows an argument between a white male wearing a “Trump: Make America Great Again” T-shirt and hat, and several black college-age women, was taken at a student rally for Donald Trump in November at WSU.
The video was edited to include such text as “Maybe you should go back to Africa.” Video clips of mock-tribal dancing and a young Middle Eastern boy using a slur against blacks were also added.
WSU College Republicans President James Allsup said he created the original video, which he called, “Getting Educated by Black Lives Matter” and posted it on his YouTube account, but denied editing in the racist content.
Schulz said a university task force is expected to release a plan June 1 that he hopes will discourage future issues of this sort.
“I have a lot of concerns about race on campus,” Schulz said. “But more broadly how we discuss racial issues.”
Schulz, like many university administrators, is searching for the sweet spot that discourages hate speech and racism without affecting the right to free speech.
“I just want everyone here to feel they are supported by the faculty, staff and administration, and to acknowledge that free speech and people being able to have alternative viewpoints needs to be a core principle at Washington State,” he said.
The problem is in how free speech is exercised.
“The election in November gave some groups the feeling that it’s OK to say whatever you think without regard to how that might impact people around them,” he said. “One of the things we want to work with our students on is how to disagree but do it in an agreeable fashion.”
While the recent presidential election may have been a catalyst for some of the tensions on campus, the issue is one that waxes and wanes, Schulz said.
“It has been here for many, many years and depending on student leaders, it just gets larger or smaller,” he said.
WSU is not alone in its endeavors to create a more inclusive – or at least civil – campus, as higher education institutions around the country are reacting to increasing racist acts and attitudes.
“We’re at a challenging time institutionally,” Schulz said. “UC Santa Cruz just had a sit-in on some similar types of issues, at my former institution they found a noose hanging from a tree on campus.”
Kansas State University, where Schulz worked before taking the presidency at WSU last year, was one of three universities where nooses were found since the beginning of the month.
On May 1, the day after American University in Washington, D.C., elected its first black woman president of student government, nooses with bananas hanging from them were found in three locations on campus.
In all incidences, the bananas bore scrawled messages such as “AKA Free” – apparently referencing the primarily black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, of which the new student government president was a member. Another phrase found in black marker on the bananas was “Harambe bait,” apparently a reference to a gorilla that was killed by zoo workers after it grabbed and drug a 3-year-old boy that climbed into its enclosure.
Other incidents include flyers posted on campuses, some with caricatures of a black man with a knife and the words, “Around blacks never relax,” and others urging students to call the authorities on illegal immigrants, with the words, “they are criminals.”
Saturday, a member of a racist Facebook group called Alt-Reich Nation allegedly stabbed to death a 23-year-old University of Maryland student the day before his graduation.
The upswing in racism across the U.S. has been documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which noted in a February report that hate groups across the nation have increased from 892 in 2015 to 917 last year, with the largest increase being anti-Muslim groups, which rose from 35 in 2015 to 101 last year.
The SPLC noted in its spring 2017 Intelligence Report there were 130 Ku Klux Klan groups, 663 anti-government groups and 193 black separatist groups operating in the U.S. in 2016.
Shanon Quinn can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.