RICHMOND – Today the Virginia NAACP responded to the investigative report released this week regarding the years-long culture of racism and sexism at the Virginia Military Institute VMI.
Virginia NAACP Education Chair Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown said:
“This report tells us what Black people and women have known for years: Racism and sexism have been allowed to thrive on the campus of VMI. The absence of policy to protect students and faculty from racism and sexism renders VMI complicit in upholding the racist and sexist culture documented in the investigation.”
Virginia NAACP Political Action Chair Gaylene Kanoyton said:
“No publicly-funded institution should be allowed to operate with such blatant disregard for civil and human rights. The Virginia NAACP firmly believes that absent immediate changes, all funding from the Commonwealth to VMI should be revoked.”
Virginia NAACP President Robert Barnette said:
“The Virginia NAACP demands that state legislators return to Richmond this summer to implement the report’s recommendations and set a swift timetable for implementation.”
Racism and sexism have been allowed to thrive on the campus of VMI in large part due to the lack of accountability required of those who participate in racist and sexist acts. By ignoring, or insufficiently addressing claims of racism and sexism, the institution nurtures a racist and sexist culture making it difficult if not impossible for Blacks and women to thrive because of race and gender. As one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country, the NAACP takes serious issue with this reality and is committed to protecting the civil rights of all. We support further investigation of the alleged racist and sexist climate at VMI.
The disciplinary actions taken against Black cadets follow the national trend of criminalization of Blacks as evidenced by our nation’s criminal justice system. At VMI, Black cadets makeup 41% of dismissed cadets since 2011 but comprise about half that–23% of the student population. Because education has always been a civil rights issue, the Virginia NAACP is committed to closing the opportunity gap exacerbated by the disproportionate, punitive discipline of minority students not only in higher education but also at the K-12 levels.
The investigative findings note that sexual assault is not adequately addressed by VMI. The fear of retaliation or further ostracism is prevalent. The Virginia NAACP believes that students’ claims of sexual assault should be taken seriously and that VMI reconsider the sexual assault training that exists, but considering respondents’ statements–does not appear effective.
The Virginia NAACP demands accountability of any publicly-funded institution that denies people civil and human rights due to race and/or gender. Without appropriate accountability, all equity and anti-discrimination efforts are futile.