WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Students and school administrators were outraged after someone hung bananas by a string with what appeared to be a noose on the campus of American University.
School officials described it as a racist threat.
The word ‘Harambe’ - most famously known as the 17-year-old gorilla who was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into its enclosure last year - was written on the bananas. The person behind the racist vandalism also wrote ‘a.k.a.’, which is believed to be referring to Alpha Kappa Alpha, a predominately black sorority on campus.
The cruel and hateful messages were found on Monday, the same day newly elected student government president Taylor Dumpson took office. She is the first African-American woman to hold the role and is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. She released a statement following the incident which stated in part that the hate would not be tolerated.
Read Dumpson's full statement below:
Early this morning, the Department of Public Safety was notified of a race-related incident targeted towards American University members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first predominately black greek lettered sorority in the United States.
It is disheartening and immensely frustrating that we are still dealing with this issue after recent conversations, dialogues, and town halls surrounding race relations on campus. But this is exactly why we need to do more than just have conversations but move in a direction towards more tangible solutions to prevent incidents like these from occurring in the future.
As the first black woman AUSG president, I implore all of us to unite in solidarity with those impacted by this situation and we must remember that "if there is no struggle, there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass. We must use this time to reflect on what we value as a community and we must show those in the community that bigotry, hate, and racism cannot and will not be tolerated.
This is not what I imagined my first letter to you all would be. In my first message to the student body, I would have wanted to talk about accountability, transparency, accessibility, and inclusivity. Now more than ever, we need to make sure that members of our community feel welcomed and above all, safe on this campus.
Earlier this year, the University updated the Student Code of Conduct to outline identity-motivated bias and the sanctioning process for such incidents. As the new AUSG president, I encourage the University to work to ensure that those responsible for these despicable acts are brought to justice.
Throughout this process, I will remain as transparent as possible. As with all incidents involving the conduct process, the details of any proceedings will remain largely confidential. As I receive any updates, I will share as much as possible with the student body.
This will not be tolerated now, or ever, on the campus of American University and I will do everything in my ability to ensure that this never happens again."
Monday’s incident is not the first time bananas have been used in such an insensitive way at the University. Last year, bananas were thrown at black students and their dorm rooms.
The university is holding a community meeting at the Key Chapel Tuesday afternoon to discuss the apparent signs of racism and bigotry.
Campus police are working with D.C. police to investigate and are looking at surveillance video to obtain more clues.