James Meredith, who integrated the University of Mississippi under federal protection a half century ago, says it's a shame that state authorities deferred to the federal government to bring charges after a noose was left on a campus statue of him.
The Justice Department said Friday that a former Ole Miss student, Graeme Phillip Harris of Alpharetta, Georgia, has been indicted on one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students because of their race or color.
The indictment is connected to a February 2014 incident in which a noose and a former Georgia flag that prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem were placed on a Meredith statue near the main administration building at Ole Miss.
Earlier this month, a video surfaced showing Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma singing a racist chant on a bus. The SAE's national headquarters quickly responded by closing its chapter at the University of Oklahoma and suspended all those members, and the university severed "all ties and affiliations" between the school and fraternity.
The indictment comes at a time where racism and the Confederate legacy are hotly debated on campus.
At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the name of a Ku Klux Klan leader on the academic building “Saunders Hall” is an offensive reminder of a painful legacy that has contributed to the racial stereotypes they confront on campus today.
Around the country, students of color have been pressuring university officials to change building names and remove monuments – or at least educate the campus better about what they see as symbols of white supremacy. Such efforts have cropped up periodically over the past several decades, but in the wake of high profile deaths of unarmed black men, such as in Ferguson, Mo., and the racist fraternity chant that was exposed at the University of Oklahoma, they may be gaining salience and broader support.
College leaders have come down on both sides of the debate over whether to rename buildings, but many have taken the opportunity to foster more open discussions about how their campus fits into the complicated national landscape of race.