Anti-racism research and policy center created at American University
WASHINGTON (ABC7) —
The chaos in Charlottesville erupted nearly 120 miles from American University in Northwest Washington, but the aftermath can be felt on campus.
The incidents in Virginia come as AU tries to target racism.
"I think it was a tragedy and domestic white supremacist terrorism," said Ibram Kendi, professor of History and International Relations at American University.
Kendi, an award-winning historian, just moved to Washington, D.C. from Florida where he was a professor at the University of Florida. Kendi will be teaching the history of racism, and will be the founding director of the new Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at AU.
"I think some students and even faculty members are concerned, I think some students and faculty members are confused," Kendi said.
The confusion and concern was catapulted into the spotlight last May when bananas were found hanging from nooses in at least five locations on AU's campus. Taylor Dumpson learned about the nooses on her first day as AU's student government president. Written on some of the bananas were the letters 'AKA.’ AKA are the initials of Alpha Kappa Alpha, an African-American sorority on campus. Dumpson, a member of AKA, is also the first African-American woman to hold the student president's office.
The University is calling it a hate crime, but no arrests have been made.
Now, two days after 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and dozens injured when a car plowed through counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Kendi said the anti-racism center is even more crucial to help shut the door on hate.
"I would like to bring together teams of scholars who are going to study racial inequality. It will also be a space where students can work with AU and even non-AU researchers on some of the most critical research projects and policy projects of their time,” Kendi said. “So the students aren't just learning about racism, they actually can be involved in the solution."
The University has not decided on an exact spot for the center on campus, but Kendi is hoping it's a place for discussion and a safe haven for students, staff and faculty. He plans on holding a vision event in late September where he will outline more of his goals for the center.
Students said they like the idea of keeping the lines of communication open.
"I think having a center like that helps people be more aware and more careful and more adamant about talking about things and preventing that kind of thing from happening,” said Edee Burton, a junior at AU.