News, University News

University releases statement regarding racist flyers

After black students voice concerns, Paxson affirms commitment to black community members

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2018

Earlier this month, students and government officials gathered to condemn racism in two press conferences arranged by the NAACP.

In response to the racist flyers found around the University, concerned undergraduate black students issued a joint statement in bluestockings magazine Feb. 14 expressing concerns about the University’s silence on the matter. After community pushback, President Christina Paxson P’19 addressed the “racism in our community” in a message through a Today@Brown letter Feb. 21.

Following the spread of the flyers Feb. 3, some undergraduate black students have become “concerned for the psychological and physical safety of Black students, workers and residents of the Providence community and outraged at the complete silence from Brown University and nearby institutions,” according to the joint statement. Vanguard America, a white supremacist group known for spreading hateful propaganda, is responsible for the flyers and pamphlets that accused “Providence of supporting ‘Negro Crime’ and committing ‘White Genocide,’” the statement said. The Herald could not independently verify this claim.

“The flyers found on Brown’s campus are part of a calculated nationwide strategy to amplify racist, far-right rhetoric, draw in young white audiences and bring openly white supremacist views into mainstream discourse,” the statement read.

The University has not been able to confirm the “exact whereabouts” of the locations at which flyers were  reportedly distributed on campus, Paxson wrote.

On Feb. 5, the Providence chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a press conference to demonstrate their outrage regarding the perpetrators’ hateful actions, The Herald previously reported. Mayor Jorge Elorza and other Providence leaders spoke at the press conference to show their solidarity.

On Feb. 11, Brown’s chapter of the NAACP and Providence-area activists and students demonstrated again, allowing students to publicly condemn the racist posters, as The Herald previously reported.

“It is unnerving to witness utter silence and inaction from the University administration,” the statement read, adding that “this administration’s non-response clearly demonstrates the superficial nature of its so-called commitment to diversity and inclusion.” In the statement, students also voiced concerns that Brown utilizes its students’ activism to “market itself as a progressive and liberal institution, while failing to publicly acknowledge acts of racism occurring in its own backyard.”

In her letter, Paxson acknowledged the University’s inappropriate silence. “A communication denouncing the flyer(s) would have been an opportunity to reaffirm to members of our community who identify as black that Brown is committed to their wellbeing,” she wrote. “I hope that this communication, even if late, is taken in that spirit.”

In addition to demanding that the University denounce “all instances of racism and fascism” on campus, the statement from concerned undergraduate black students also called on the University to eradicate white supremacist propaganda and support “Providence community members in their efforts to combat structural racism.”

Paxson also wrote that “the best way for us to combat the ugly racism of the flyers spread across Providence is to redouble our efforts to do what we as a university community do best: educate ourselves and others about past and continued inequities, take principled stands against racism and bigotry, and continue to move forward on our plans to build a more diverse and inclusive community.”

Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark described the flyers found across Providence as “appalling.”

“Any act rooted in racism, bigotry or hate is cause for concern,” he wrote in an email to The Herald. “Not only are such acts deeply harmful to the individuals and communities they target, but they conflict with the very values that define our community at Brown.”

The statement was signed by 11 concerned undergraduate black students in addition to leaders from the Brown University Chapter of the NAACP, the Black Student Union at Brown University, the African Students Association, Black in Business at Brown, the Black Pre-Med Society, Dominican Students at Brown, Mosaic+ and Students of Caribbean Ancestry at Brown University. In total, 28 students signed the statement.

One of the students who signed the statement declined to comment. The others could not be reached for comment.