At Xavier University, dozens protest racially offensive social media posts

CINCINNATI -- Dozens of Xavier University students stood in silence Wednesday, protesting racially offensive social media posts that Xavier President Mike Graham said left him "outraged and deeply troubled."

One photo shows a skeleton in a dashiki. Another shows a young, white woman in blackface.

"She thought it would be funny, and she thought this would be acceptable in the culture," said Jeremiah Pennebaker, president of Xavier's Black Student Association.

Xavier is investigating the posts, according to Kelly Leon, XU’s director of strategic communications. The school has a Student Code of Conduct that stipulates expected behavior among students, she said, including respect for others.

"All students accused of a violation of the Student Code of Conduct go through a student conduct process," Leon wrote.

About 100 students joined Wednesday's silent protest, to attack the idea that blackface would be funny. Pennebaker said he feels Xavier could address the problem by starting a campus-wide conversation instead of just punishing the people involved.

"I feel like there should be more diversity training, because I feel like if you just expel the girl, that doesn't do away with the problem," he said.

And, Pennebaker said, there's a broader issue when anyone thinks blackface is acceptable: a cultural problem rooted in white supremacy.

"We condemn the White supremacy that makes it okay to mass incarcerate Black men and women, kill Black children with no repercussions, and makes incidents such as this one seem funny or light-hearted to some," he wrote in a letter to the Xavier community. "These are simply reoccurrences of America's lack of respect for Black life."

WCPO first learned of the images from Xavier sophomore Simone Fluker, who said the image makes her feel "speechless" and that she "feels bad" for the girl depicted in the photo, because "she has made a mistake that will be with her for the rest of her life."

"This is the last straw," Fluker said. "It’s time for people to learn and educate themselves -- racism is still around and people are still ignorant to it."

Xavier University also held a campus-wide meeting in the Gallagher Student Center.

"This can't be tolerated," student Nick McGill said. "In some ways, I feel the university may have to make an example, because that can't happen."

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