by SCOTTI MULLEN
The Radical Students’ Union organized a protest on Sept. 12 to stand in solidarity with Black students at the University of Virginia, where two crimes have taken place over the last few weeks, one of which has been labeled a hate crime.
On Aug. 19, an unidentified person or group threw two rocks at the Office of African American Affairs, breaking two window panes. On Sept. 7, an unidentified male placed a noose around the neck of the U.Va. lawn’s statue of Homer. The U.Va. Police labeled the Aug. 19 crime as vandalism and the Sept. 7 crime as a hate crime.
“I have been a victim of a hate crime on campus, so I feel for the students impacted at UVA,” said Myca Lester, a sophomore sociology major and chair of the Radical Students’ Union. “I feel like these recent events and the escalation has made Black students feel like they don’t belong.”
U.Va. students held a protest around the Homer statue on the same date as the RSU protest. Lester felt that the RSU’s protest “brought light to the issue.”
“So many students were unaware of what happened,” said Lester. “[The protest] was not what we assumed it would be but we held space for those who needed it, and educated, so we did what we strived to do. This protest is not the beginning nor the end. The fight against white supremacy did not begin nor end today—we will continue to organize.”
Senior communication and digital studies major Cameron Washington attended the protest at UMW.
“The experience was amazing,” he said. “We got to talk with a multitude of people about the anti-Black hate crimes that went down at U.Va. over the past week and in general, we got a lot of support.”
Washington said that more should be done to address hate crimes at U.Va and UMW alike.
“The appropriate response should be to investigate it (which is actively going on) and punish the student/individuals that were involved,” he said. “UVA has a history of not responding to hate crime issues too well so putting pressure on them to get it done swiftly and treating other hate crimes with the same seriousness is imperative. The same exact thing goes for here at Mary Washington.”
Lester agrees that more should be done, especially for the UMW community.
“We want administration to consistently acknowledge the harm done to Black students and to demonstrate active steps to prevent hate crimes or escalations on campus,” she said. “We want administration to stand in solidarity with us rather than just say ‘it does not reflect our ASPIRE values.’ We need more than the performative actions they have consistently given us in the past.”
The protest led to more students learning about the issue.
“I was heading to the UC for lunch at the time and I saw some people standing outside… It reminded me that racism can happen in any way, shape or form and it is important to stay informed on these issues,” said freshman Colin Chu.
The Radical Students’ Union is planning to take action to address problems on the UMW campus.
“An injustice towards anyone is a threat to justice everywhere on our campus,” said Lester. “We are actively seeking people to help draft a letter regarding these issues on campus as well.”
Lester stressed that regardless of where these events take place, they still affect Black students in the UMW community.
“We, Black students, at PWIs deserve the same safety and security as white students,” said Lester, referring to PWIs as predominantly white institutions. “We deserve to feel safe in our own area. It just is frustrating to be outcasted because of something we can’t change. The hate for no reason is disgusting.”
Josephine Johnson contributed to reporting for this article.
Due to source error, a previous version of this article incorrectly credited the photo to Myca Lester. The photo was taken by Jamie Vuong. This version has been corrected.