First Ole Miss, Now More: Students In South Rail Against Obama Reelection
For many college students and young Americans, Tuesday was a moment of celebration and reflection as a majority of young voters again backed President Obama, supporting him over Gov. Mitt Romney by more than a two-to-one margin. But at a handful of colleges across the South, others reacted with racism and ugly outbursts.
At the University of Mississippi, things took a nasty turn, according the Daily Mississippian, when “hundreds of Ole Miss students exchanged racial epithets and violent, politicized chants in response to the announcement of President Obama's reelection.” Students there were photographed burning Obama/Biden campaign signs. In a letter to the university community, Chancellor Daniel W. Jones apologized for the incident, saying those involved would be “dealt with appropriately through the student conduct process.”
At East Carolina University, shortly after the announcement of Obama’s victory, Reddit user Beingthatguy snapped a picture of an American flag flying half mast outside the Kappa Sigma fraternity. He wrote that he was troubled by the incident: “I understand if you are unhappy with the outcome of the elections, but the colors are a symbol to be respected. … You fly half-staff to show genuine respect and mourning.”
Students at Virginia’s Hampden Sydney University reacted with a hate-fueled outburst outside of the campus’ minority student union. According to the Huffington Post, about 40 students “shouted racial slurs, threw bottles and set off fireworks outside the Minority Student Union within hours after President Barack Obama's re-election.” The incident also included threats of physical violence.
In an email to students and parents Chris Howard, Hampden Sydney's first black president, expressed disappointment, calling the outburst a "harmful, senseless episode."
Back at University of Mississippi, not all students shared the feelings of those who rioted. The day after the incident, students organized a “We Are One Mississippi” candlelight walk. More than 600 students—several hundred more than were involved in the violent outburst—marched on campus. Event organizer Renee Ombaba told the local news media that she hoped the event would “show the community that we stand together to change the image of Mississippi.”
The news of the bigoted outburst is especially troubling as it comes on the heels of a diversity milestone for the university: electing its first black homecoming queen. Ashley Pearson, who was chosen as homecoming queen in late October, said she hoped her win would change the public perception of Ole Miss. “It couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said. “Ole Miss, get ready. We just changed the face.”
Bridget Todd is a reporter for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetMarie.