Gov. Ralph Northam Calls for Investigation Into Virginia Military Institute’s ‘Clear and Appalling Culture of Ongoing Structural Racism’

By Anne Branigin,

After months of Black current and former students at Virginia Military Institute speaking up about rampant racism at the institution, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered an investigation into the school’s culture.

The investigation was announced in a letter signed by the commonwealth’s top lawmakers, including Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring and Del. Lamont Bagby, the chair of Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, reports the Washington Post. In it, officials said the state would be conducting an “independent, third-party review” of the “clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism at the Virginia Military Institute.”

Photo: Steve Helber (AP)

The letter comes after a report from the Post, published this past weekend, dug deeper into allegations about the school’s institutional racism, including a lynching threat against a Black student that went unpunished, a business professor who waxed poetic about attending Klu Klux Klan parties, and an ongoing reverence for the Confederacy, with which the school has deep connections.

Officials mentioned these details in the letter, writing:

“Black cadets at VMI have long faced repeated instances of racism on campus, including horrifying new revelations of threats about lynching, vicious attacks on social media, and even a professor who spoke fondly of her family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan—to say nothing of inconsistent application of the Institute’s Honor Code.”

The letter added that VMI cadets are continually exposed to a campus culture that “honors the Confederacy and celebrates an inaccurate and dangerous ‘Lost Cause’ version of Virginia’s history.”

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