VMI superintendent resigns after Black cadets speak out about racism

A prestigious military academy is beset by allegations of racism leading the school's head to step down

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This week the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute resigned from his post after Black cadets made disturbing allegations about the systemic racism at the nation’s oldest state-supported military college.

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Monday morning, Retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, 80, who had been superintendent of the 181-year-old school since 2003, submitted his resignation letter to John Boland, president of VMI’s Board of Visitors.

In the correspondence Peay said that he’d been told by the governor’s chief of staff that Northam and other state legislators had “lost confidence in my leadership” and “desired my resignation.”

“It has been the honor of my life to be the Superintendent of VMI for over seventeen years,” the retired four-star general wrote. “I always have and always will love the Institute, all of our cadets, alumni and the entire VMI family.”

Earlier this month The Washington Post broke the story of a Black student who filed a formal complaint last year after a White adjunct professor felt comfortable reminiscing about her father’s Ku Klux Klan membership in the middle of class. And this is far from an isolated incident.

Cadets at Virginia Military Academy (Getty Images)

In 2018, a white sophomore threatened to “lynch” a Black freshman during Hell Week then mused about how he would use his “dead corpse as a punching bag.” Despite the severity of the threat, the student was only suspended, but not expelled.

Multiple accounts of racist incidents have surfaced at VMI during Peay’s tenure, which led Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to order an independent probe of the school’s culture due to his “deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at VMI.

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In his reply to the governor, Boland dismissed the allegations of deep-seated bias at the institution, stating that “systemic racism does not exist here and a fair and independent review will find that to be true.”

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