LEXINGTON, Va. – Governor Ralph Northam and a host of other state leaders have called for an independent probe after a Washington Post article detailed claims of racist incidents at Virginia Military Institute.
Northam called the developments “appalling,” and wrote “it is clear that internal action alone is no longer sufficient for VMI to join in the commitment to diversity and equity that the rest of Virginia’s government is embracing.”
The Post reports that Black cadets at Virginia Military Institute endure an atmosphere of hostility, cultural insensitivity and racism. Over the past few years, several incidents of overt racism, such as a white student telling a Black student he would lynch him, have occurred. VMI administrators have also been among those accused of cultural insensitivity. The institute responded to those incidents with less stringent discipline than some students would advocate for.
More than a dozen Black students and alumni told the Post the atmosphere and the institute’s veneration of the Confederacy make the institution difficult to attend. The administration has refused in the face of pressure to remove or relocate its Confederate statues.
Until a few years ago, cadets were instructed to salute the campus’s statue of Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate general and slave owner. The administration has defended the statue of Jackson, who taught at VMI, saying he was a “military genius.”
In a statement to the POst, the superintendent of VMI, retired general J. H. Binford Peay III, said there is no place for racism at VMI and that allegations will be investigated and, if substantiated, appropriately punished.