Harvard Law School students awoke to racist vandalism on Thursday. Along a hallway that displays photographs of tenured law professors, black professors had slash marks drawn over their faces.
“People were very emotional. People were very hurt,” Shay Johnson, a third-year law student at Harvard, told Business Insider. “It seemed another instance of where black voices on campus were being silenced.”
Harvard police are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime, the Boston Globe reported.
Students had a “highly emotional” meeting at noon on Thursday with faculty members to discuss the vandalism and the racism they say pervades campus life, according to Johnson, internal vice-president of the Harvard Black Law Students Association.
She said students also advocated for changes to the legal curriculum and the addition of a diversity and inclusion officer.
“While we’re hurt that this happened, we’re really not surprised,” Johnson said. “Because it’s part of this larger system of racial antagonism that been going on in the US and at the law school, whether it’s explicit or implicit.”
Johnson’s words echo similar sentiments of college students across the US who have been holding protests over claims of systemic racism. Yale University has been embroiled in student-led protests over racism, and students have called for the resignation of administration members they say are creating a dangerous environment.
There, students have banded together, staging rallies, writing op-eds, and debating with Yale administrators to demand sweeping changes at the school. Some students say they feel unsafe on campus.
Johnson doesn’t necessarily feel physically unsafe but does feel extremely uneasy and uncomfortable, she said. For her, the campus hate crime resembled experiences she had growing up in the South.
“I attended middle and high school in Birmingham, Alabama at a majority white institution, and then I went to Spellman,” she said. “One of the reasons I went to Spellman was because of the experience I had in Alabama. And when I saw the pictures crossed out in that way, it hearkened back for me to times being in high school with people who would literally call me n*****. It personally took me back to that phase and I had a pit in my stomach coming to campus [on Thursday].”
For her part, Law School Dean Martha L. Minow, acknowledged racism on campus in her Thursday meeting with students. “Racism exists in America and in the United States and in Harvard and in Harvard Law School,” Minow said, according to the Harvard Crimson.
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