It has been exactly two years since a racially provocative drawing was discovered on a whiteboard in what was Blackwell Library, marking a grim anniversary within the community.
On April 10, 2016, an image of a racist drawing with the caption “#WhitePower” began circulating on campus through social media.
When initially uncovered, the story was reported on by Delmarva Now, The Washington Times, and even USA Today, making the event a national story. The Salisbury University Police Department opened an investigation in order to determine if it was a hate crime, but dropped the case once it was determined the authors of said drawing were African-American.
Though the debacle has hence been resolved, the aftermath of the situation is worth reflecting on, given the incident is systemic of a larger issue. A scandal is never an isolated event, even post its de-escalation.
The provocative elements of a scandal not only creates uproar amongst a community, but also reflects the university’s character to the rest of the world, for better or worse. The case of the racist drawing may be closed, but the scar the scandal left behind still calls for examination.
SGA Vise President Benjamin Lenox reflected on how the campus has changed since the incident.
“I think it definitely still affects the consciousness of the students who were on the campus at the time,” Lenox said. “But I think as for impacting the schools lasting public relations effort and social reputation, I do not think it has negatively impacted it for the long term.”
Although the story was reported on a national level, it is not holistically reflective of the campus’ reputation. SU student Lance Morris transferred to the college in the spring 2017 semester, nearly a year after the situation occurred. When asked if he was familiar with the incident, he stated that he had no idea about the drawing and said that it was terrible the event occurred.
The situation may have been pandemic at the time, but the story has not been reported on since its inception. It may appear as if the racist drawing in Blackwell is nothing but a forgotten nightmare within the university, but doing so would disregard the social impact it had on campus.
“Images like the one you mentioned remind students that history never really remains in the past,” Morris said. “I think images like that begin a dialogue between others about how deplorable racism is, but it also reminds us how something like that can be considered trivial to others.”
The drawing may have been done by African-American students, but that does not disregard the emotional impact it had on the community at the time. When the story broke at first, the incident caused a movement on Snapchat, using the hashtag “#OnlyATSalisbury.”
When racially spiteful messages are discovered on campus, they do not come with a note of disregard, despite who wrote it. They send a clear and concise message that emotionally attack the subjects of their depictions.
“It’s impossible to know the future and how terrible people will act, but making an effort to wrestle with the pain of the past while speaking to the diversity and advancements of our present more often just might help us all as a student body,” Morris said.
The memory of the racist drawing in Blackwell begins to fade away with every new batch of students, but leaves behind a lesson worth remembering. Racial defacement not only affects the community from within, but also distorts its image to others.
Though the marks can be cleaned, painted-over, or scraped off, the impression it leaves on the university itself is so easily erased.
By JOHN EICHER
Featured photo: Drew Lacouture image.