By Curtis Edmonds, Editor-in-Chief
“Obamacare is the noose that hangs America.” This inflammatory phrase is one of many in a three-paged letter discovered wedged in the doorway of the Black Student Union. The Chief Minister of the BSU, Lennon Johnson ‘14, describes the letter as “propaganda” that espoused conservative viewpoints about the Obama presidency.
The letter continues to say that “Obama is rapeing America” and “Obama is rapeing the economy.” Lester Harris ‘17, the president of the BSU’s Freshman Foundation, discovered the letter around 11 p.m. on Dec. 3 after a fellow freshman turned it into him. “I was extremely uncomfortable with what I was reading,” says Harris. He found it troublesome that “it referenced the black president with a noose in the same sentence.”
Harris took the letters to Johnson, who held on to them until the next BSU executive meeting, which was held on Dec. 9. The executive board then distributed them to the general body of the BSU that Friday on Dec. 14.
“People wondered, ‘what is it?’ ‘where is it from?’”says Johnson. “It doesn’t entail and type of hate directed toward us.”
Garret Moore, Director of Campus Security, says the school used a company called “Threat Triage” to assess the threat level of the letters.The letters were ultimately determined to be a low threat. Moore says, “there really isn’t a threat there, just a lot of political ramblings.” Additionally, Moore does not label the letters as a hate crime but does regard them as an example of “insensitivity.”
One point of interest is whether or not a student or someone from the greater community wrote and delivered the letter. Moore does not believe a student wrote it, because several references in the letter were to old songs and Glenn Beck radio, which he says young people may not be familiar with.
“We don’t have a lot of control over people outside of the community,” says Moore, but he also adds that the person who wrote it should have “had the guts to put their name on it.”
Johnson, however, is concerned with the timing of the letter’s delivery. He says the night the letter was discovered, his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically black organization, had just completed a movie screening of the student documentary “More than a Noose,” which chronicled the controversial race-related events that occurred on Denison’s campus in 2007.
The BSU ultimately decided that releasing the letters to the campus community wouldn’t be the best move. Ra’Jene Martin ‘16 of Boston, Mass. is the Minister of Records and Letters was in charge of keeping the letters in the BSU space, saying, “We didn’t want [the letters] floating around campus without our response.”
Johnson and other executive members decided with the general body to create a Political Action Committee, comprised of several students, including Lita Shive ‘16, Cheyenne Evans ‘16 and Najee Rollins ‘15. This committee drafted a letter to the campus community (here) describing their concerns. But the BSU’s plan extends beyond a written response. According to Johnson, the organization plans on holding “a flagpole vigil, a paper toss and stuffing mailboxes.”
Students that would like to engage in dialogue with the Black Student Union can attend a forum with the executive board on Monday from 8:30 – 9 p.m. The BSU meets each Friday at 5:30 p.m.