African-American students were outraged to see portraits of Harvard Law School’s Black professors defaced, leading to an investigation by the police and a string of discussions about racial injustice at Harvard University.
The New York Times reports the incident happened Thursday when students noticed the portraits of Black professors like Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and others were slashed with black tape. The Harvard University Police Department launched an investigation and labeled the incident a hate crime, Dean Martha Minow told reporters.
On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of students joined Minow to discuss the underlying racism at Harvard since its inception. Law student Michele Hall penned an op-ed on Blavity about the Royall family crest and how it represents White supremacy. The school was founded on the money made off the sale of 100 Antiguan enslaved people, she explains. The Royall family also owned slaves in Massachusetts and Isaac Royall Jr. bequeathed his part of the family’s inheritance to the school.
Hall explains the crest is a reminder to Black students that their presence is unwanted.
“We, black students on campus, are not afraid of what you do under the covers of darkness and hatred and cowardice. We will march and scream and sit in and walk out and shout our demands and make ourselves heard and tear down these hallways of white supremacy because we belong here too. And no longer can you make us feel that we do not belong here. Because our sweat and blood and death and courage is what really built these hallways.
This morning at Harvard Law School we woke up to a hate crime. And what we do next will shake white supremacy at Harvard Law School to its core.”
Dean Minow told reporters racism is still alive at the school, from students’ treatment to the low amount of people of color on the school’s faculty. Students also called out the administration for not being more vocal about the problems.
The New York Times reports:
Ms. Minow acknowledged that racism was an issue at Harvard as it was around the country. “Racism exists in America and in the United States and in Harvard and in Harvard Law School,” said Ms. Minow, who has written extensively on topics like school desegregation.
While critics shook off the defaced portraits because of the limited physical damage, the use of the tape is actually more pernicious than it seems. The tape was utilized in an earlier protest, which sought to have the law school change its seal. Students had put the tape on mats displaying the seal to protest the family crest.
On a better note, after the tape was removed, colorful Post-it notes containing positive messages were placed on the portraits by students.