UMass Amherst investigating ‘blatantly racist’ emails sent to Black students

Nefertiti Walker, Ph.D., the school's vice-chancellor, described it as "vile, blatantly racist and violently offensive."

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Officials at UMass Amherst have addressed the increase in racially targeted anti-Black incidents on campus, specifically a racist letter sent to numerous Black-centered student groups on campus Sept. 17. 

The email, according to WWLP, was sent from a non-student account signed “UMass coalition for a better society” and suggested Black students should “consider doing the human race a favor and getting sterilized.” 

Nefertiti Walker, Ph.D. (right), UMass Amherst’s vice-chancellor and chief diversity officer, described the email sent to Black student groups as “vile, blatantly racist and violently offensive.” (Photo: UMass Amherst)

Screenshots of the derogatory email also assert “you simply did not get here on merit.”

The content is described as “vile, blatantly racist and violently offensive” in an announcement by Nefertiti Walker, Ph.D., the university’s vice-chancellor and chief diversity officer.

The email reads, in part, “We look down upon you, we instantly know in all manners from your language which most of you still speak in some broken form of Ebonics or to ghetto-speak to where your from (third-world sewers in America bought and paid for by the u.s taxpayer) to how you live (like hoodrats) to how you appear (fro hair, big lips, black skin) you are different.”

Walker confirmed that campus police are working with the UMass Information Technology Department to identify the racist individual who sent the email. 

“We stand in solidarity and support of our Black students and in opposition to any anti-Black racism,” Walker said. “Please continue to report these hateful acts, even if the act is not directed to you.” 

“In addition, there have been other acts of anti-Black hate imposed on our community through the ‘Contact Us’ online forms of registered student organizations, as well as an incident involving the offender driving by and yelling an anti-Black racist epithet at a group of Black students,” said Walker.

Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy noted in a Sept. 27 letter to the campus:

The anti-Black racist incidents that have occurred on our campus this semester, described in an email from Vice Chancellor Nefertiti Walker last week, are contemptible and cowardly. We will not be intimidated by the hateful acts of craven individuals who hide in anonymity. We stand with our students who have been victimized, and we will continually strive for a more equitable community grounded in the principles of dignity and respect.

Subbaswamy went on to state they had “secured the services of Stroz Friedberg Digital Forensics, a leading national firm in cyber security, to assist us in our investigation of the source of the racist emails that were sent to members of Black student organizations.”

The UMass Black Student Union said in an Instagram post they were “angry” and “tired,” but not surprised by the anti-Black racism.

Black organizations started receiving racist emails as early as the second week of September. It took the university almost a month from the initial anti-Black racist incidents, to acknowledge these instances. The university’s lengthy response time to racial incidents compared to their rapid response to non-racial incidents is not reflective of a university that claims to be “committed in policy, principle, and practice to maintaining an environment which prohibits discriminatory behavior and provides equal opportunity for all persons. 

“The increase in anti-Black sentiments at the college is repulsive,” said civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. “Students of color deserve to feel safe on their campus! The administration MUST find who is responsible and hold them accountable NOW!”

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