Story at a glance

  • Current students and alumni of the Virginia Military Institute told reporters of culturally and racially insensitive behavior.
  • Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered an independent investigation.

Amid allegations of ingrained and systemic racism within the historic Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has opened an investigation into the school and the college’s superintendent has resigned.

NPR reports that last Friday, retired U.S. Army General J.H. Binford Peay III wrote a letter of resignation to the school’s Board of Visitors, saying the resignation stems from Northam and other legislators having “lost confidence” in Peay’s leadership at the college.

The Washington Post first reported this month on how Black students face an atmosphere of hostility and cultural insensitivity within the school, with one student describing threats of lynching. The shadows of a Confederate past are still over the school, as allegations of racist online and bullying behavior have emerged. 


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"I wake up every day wondering, 'Why am I still here?'" 20-year-old VMI cadet William Bunton told The Post.

In response to alumni and student allegations, Peay told reporters that “there is no place for racism or discrimination at VMI.”

One of the documented incidents reportedly occurred in March after a Black sophomore cadet decried using Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s likeness on their class ring, to which another student replied on a chat app: “F---ing leave already. People like you are the reason this school is divided. Stop focusing so much on your skin color and focus on yourself as a person. Nobody i[n] your recent family line was oppressed by ‘muh slavery.’”

Another instance took place in a classroom, where student Keniya Lee’s professor reminisced fondly about her experience as the daughter of a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), describing the parties and activities with the larger KKK community as fun.

Virginia lawmakers swiftly condemned the allegations, with Northam decrying in a letter the educational atmosphere at VMI being one that “honors the Confederacy and celebrates an inaccurate and dangerous 'Lost Cause' version of Virginia's history.” 

The letter was cosigned by other state leaders including Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring and Eileen Filler-Corn, speaker of the House of Delegates.

Northam has since ordered an unbiased, third-party examination of the school’s policies and culture. 

Other officials at VMI stand opposed to both the allegations and the investigation. In a letter sent to Northam, VMI President John Boland denounced the allegations, saying that many of them happened years ago, and that they “had more to do with an individual's lapse of judgment than they do with the culture of the Institute.”

The acting superintendent is Brig. Gen. Robert "Bob" Moreschi, a longtime member of the VMI faculty. 


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Published on Oct 27, 2020