HBCU Leaders Decry Waves of Bomb Threats as Federal Investigators Probe Origin
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Just hours before a virtual panel hosted by the Southern Poverty Law Center regarding recent bomb threats made to historically Black colleges, another bomb threat was reported. This time, it targeted Spelman College, a historically Black institution located in Georgia.
Lecia Brooks, the Chief of Staff and Culture for the SPLC, condemned the attack as a racist act aimed at disrupting the start of Black History Month. She stated that the perpetrators wanted to send a message that learning while Black is not safe and that it was a deliberate attempt to instill fear and hatred. Fortunately, none of the threats were made against HBCUs in Virginia.
"They clearly underestimated the strength of our cherished centers of learning, which have always been resilient in the face of adversity."
During the virtual panel, leaders from five historically Black colleges and universities, along with an official from the U.S. Department of Education, discussed the importance of coordination between these institutions and the federal government to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and the surrounding communities. In the past few weeks, nearly 20 HBCUs received bomb threats, with more than a dozen occurring on February 1, the first day of Black History Month.
The FBI is currently treating the bomb threats against HBCUs as hate crimes and is actively investigating the incidents. Michelle Asha Cooper, the acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education, mentioned that her department is collaborating with the Justice Department, FBI, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct a thorough investigation.
"These threats bear striking resemblance to the dark days of the civil rights era. Bomb threats targeting Black individuals have unfortunately been a part of America’s history."
According to various media reports, the FBI has identified six juveniles they suspect to be involved in making the threatening calls to HBCUs. Zachary Faison Jr., the president of Edward Waters University in Florida, expressed concern upon learning that the threats may have originated from young individuals. He worries that children are not being adequately educated about the history of racism in America.
"When I think about young people, I’m referring to those who may not fully understand or appreciate the historical struggles endured by African Americans, especially within historically Black colleges and universities."
Lecia Brooks concurred and noted that the negative rhetoric and responses from elected officials at the highest levels are influencing young people. She highlighted that there has been an increase in such incidents and it is essential to address this issue immediately.
Notably, Republican lawmakers on both the state and congressional level have introduced or passed legislation to prohibit the teaching of critical race theory, an academic subject that examines the intersection of race and law, in higher education institutions. It is important to note that critical race theory is not part of the curriculum in public schools.
Following the bomb threats, Felecia Nave, the president of Alcorn State University in Mississippi, emphasized the well-being of her students as her top priority. She expressed deep sadness for the continued trauma her students face during these unprecedented times. Nave believes that open dialogue, along with providing solutions, is crucial for the students and their community.
"They are disappointed and traumatized, but their resilience and determination to overcome these threats are unwavering."
She discussed subjects like voting rights, emphasizing the ongoing struggle to protect these rights and the importance of educating the community about legislative issues, such as critical race theory.
"They are the future generation of civil rights leaders that our community will need."
Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in Louisiana, mentioned that although his university has not received any bomb threats, racist threats are not unfamiliar to them. He believes that it is essential to reflect on history, addressing past and present issues, to effectively navigate the current situation.
"We should confront our history and learn from it to guide our actions in this new context."
The following institutions have received bomb threats:
– Howard University and University of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C.
– Bethune-Cookman University and Edward Waters University in Florida
– Albany State University, Fort Valley State University, and Spelman College in Georgia
– Southern University and A&M College and Xavier University in Louisiana
Arkansas is home to Philander Smith College, while Delaware hosts Delaware State University. In Kentucky, you will find Kentucky State University. Mississippi, on the other hand, is home to several notable educational institutions, namely Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University, and Tougaloo College.
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