Thursday, January 6, 2022

HBCUs report bomb threats

The information on bomb threats at eight HBCUs on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, offered little speculation about the cause and if, or how, these threats were coordinated. And, the University of Utah's Black Cultural Center received a bomb threat on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. Additional HBCUs were threatened Monday, January 31, and again on Tuesday, February 1, 2022, likely chosen because it was the first day of Black History Month. Continuing the 2-month long surge, Howard University experienced another threat along with three more institutions during the second week of February, 2022. Hampton University received a bomb threat on February 23. Curry College reported threats against Black people on its campus on February 22 and have sustained vandalism and graffiti. These incidents are deeply troubling and will require ongoing focus by campus administrators in the coming days, regardless of whether in HBCUs or PWIs.

It isn't just about the passing panic of the threats and the inconveniences they have caused, it's the impact on the sense of safety and security and the ongoing mental health risks for of all those who attend any HBCU or participate in programs advocating racial understanding and respect. In the words of Tymek Jones, a student leader at Howard University, "students have been fearful and anxious ever since the first threats..., especially knowing the history that lies within bombing Black communities and Black spaces." Hearings were held by Congress and federal funds to assist HBCUs with safety and security offered assistance. Some critics said that investigation of the perpetrators was more important.

As the bomb threatens continued, it became increasingly clear that they were either coordinated, or the result of copycat, acts of white supremacy. An article in Psychology Today cited the persistence of COVID coupled with racism and the weariness of engaging in activism as creating high levels of stress for students of color. The authors advocated taking positive action, enhancing protective factors, and students of color and allies working together, as ways to cope and to overcome racial disparity.

There is not much question that HBCUs are more comfortable learning environments for the Black and other students who attend them, which has led to some institutional leaders proposing branch campuses where no HBCUs are currently available. Some HBCUs have joined together on course-sharing, allowing their students to take courses at cooperating HBCUs when courses are not available from their home institutions. In order to diversify their employees, some major companies are partnering with HBCUs to recruit new hires, a move that is likely to further enhance the attractiveness of HBCUs and other minority serving institutions. These moves are timely alternatives to attract and hold Black and other minority students who seek more supportive campus environments.

A Stanford study previously warned of the possible increase of threats to HBCUs as a result of increases in their enrollments. The increases were credited to fears among students of color associated with the police violence and the protests that emerged over it during 2019. Those who sought safe havens could become new targets, one that is triggering to "faculty members who grew up in that era (1970s) where you're in church and someone calls in a bomb threat." Stanford has experienced 3 incidents of nooses being displayed on its campus, leading to naming them as hate crimes.

The other coincidental or intentional link is that the bomb threats came two days before the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021, insurrection of Trump supporters attempting to overturn the 2020 election returns.

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