I was saddened and angered to hear of the racist vandalism on Northern Illinois campus early yesterday (Thursday 17 September 2020) morning, when someone spray-painted racist slurs on the Center for Black Studies in an act of targeted vandalism. This racist act of aggression and defacement is currently being investigated by the police as a hate crime.
President Lisa C. Freeman has issued a message concerning this racist act and Northern Illinois University’s response. The President’s message is available online: https://www.niu.edu/president/communications/9-17-20-addressing-the-racist-incident-that-occured-on-campus.html
The Northern Star student newspaper has published an article on the racist vandalism and will presumably provide updates.
Photo: Northern Star
I want to let my current and former students know that I condemn this racist act of targeted vandalism and stand with African-American students, faculty, and staff as an ally who is committed to opposing racism.
As a historian who studies violence, political extremism, and warfare in historical contexts, I am fully aware of the serious nature of targeted violence and destruction. This symbolic attack against a single building targeted a specific group of people on campus, but is also clearly intended to threaten the entire NIU community and its values. Persons of color and international students may feel personally targeted by this attack.
Northern Illinois University is a public research university that has a teaching, research, and service mission to serve all of its students and the entire State of Illinois. I am confident that NIU faculty and staff will respond to this attack with a strong anti-racism message and measures.
I want to assure my current students that we will continue to explore the historical contexts of racism, political authority, power structures, economic inequalities, gender relations, social conflict, imperialism, and warfare in my courses on History of the Western World I and on Early Modern Europe throughout the semester.
Studying the history of race and racism can help expose the cultural, social, political, and institutional dynamics of racial prejudices and racist acts in modern societies.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture provides information on The Historical Foundations of Race on its website. The Center for Race and Ethnicity in Society at Indiana University-Bloomington offers additional resources on the history of race and racism.