Bomb threats against HBCUs: Another backlash against Black progress

by Erika DuBose
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Last week, over 20 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) received bomb threats — for the second time in 2022. In early January, eight HBCU received bomb threats, shuttering HBCU campuses across the country.

While the threats were not found to be authentic or credible, classes were canceled at a majority of the schools, and many students were encouraged to shelter-in-place. Law enforcement later determined six “tech-savvy” juveniles are persons of interest in the coordinated threats.

The latest spate of bomb threats occurred on January 31, the day before Black History Month, a time that celebrates the achievements of African-Americans across the country. It was a sobering reminder of how far we still have to go in the fight against systemic racism and white supremacy.

“Tired of being terrorized”

One Spelman student, Saigon Boyd, told CNN, “It makes me realize how there are still these terrorists that are trying to stop minorities from advancing or just getting a simple education from a predominantly Black institution. I’m just ultimately tired of dealing with this level of unsolicited hatred. I’m just tired of being terrorized like how my grandparents were.”

Each threat was phoned into the Universities. One caller identified himself or herself as a member of a Neo-Nazi group. Meanwhile, the president of Howard University, Wayne A.I. Frederick, told the New York Times that the messages “definitely included language that suggested it was motivated by hate.”

Unfortunately, the bomb threats are not surprising considering the rash of hate crimes and attacks against Black men and women across the country. According to the FBI, 2021 saw the most hate crimes in over 12 years, with even more hate crimes going unreported due to fears and a concern that law enforcement will not investigate. 

Black colleges undeterred

Meanwhile, many white perpetrators of such attacks are threatened by the predominance of HBCUs and with African-Americans reaching historic achievements. According to Robert Palmer, a department chair and associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Howard University, “There definitely seems to be a correlation between the recent attention HBCUs have gotten, particularly with Kamala Harris, and then the fact that HBCUs are equipping students to get access to key places and important places of power in society. We live in a very polarized racial climate, and many white people see their power slipping away.”

Meanwhile, students, faculty, and staff at HBCU will not be intimidated by these attacks. According to Crystal R. Sanders, an associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University, “These perpetrators are attempting to send a message by disrupting Black colleges. But that message will be returned to sender in the sense that these Black schools will continue to do what they do, which is to promote Black excellence.”


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