‘Why Are You Surprised?’: Students Call Out University of Richmond After Racist Fraternity Video Emerges

The Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University of Richmond is suspended while the school administration investigates a racist video of some fraternity members singing “Dixie.”

Simone Reid, a junior at the university and Katiana Isaac, a sophomore, both say they are not surprised to have a racist video surface from the predominantly white fraternity in Richmond, Virginia.

“Our administration has this thing that they’re so shocked and so surprised when these things happen, and I’m like, these things have been going on for a long time, why are you surprised?” Isaac said of the video.

The video clip, made public by the Collegian, shows several fraternity members singing “Dixie,” saying “the South will rise again” and “I want to be a slave owner” amid a slew of beer cans in what appears to be a living room or den in a residence.

“Dixie” or “Dixie’s Land” is widely considered the national anthem of the Confederacy and was often used as part of minstrel shows mocking Black enslaved people during the mid-1800s.

“It’s hard to imagine that someone could think that’s a joke to say that. It’s hard to imagine that something that’s so traumatic can be something playful and funny for white students,” Reid said.

On Dec. 20, 2021, the University of Richmond suspended the Kappa Sigma fraternity upon learning of the video, which was recorded during the 2019-2020 school year. University President Kevin Hallock sent Atlanta Black Star a statement which reads in part:

“We are in the process of identifying those in the video who are current students. The behavior recorded is shameful and despicable, this is not who we are no who we aspire to be, we will take appropriate actions based on the findings of our investigation.”

The executive director of Kappa Sigma, Mitchell Wilson, also told Atlanta Black Star in a statement which reads in part: “The Kappa Sigma fraternity has suspended operations at the University of Richmond. The fraternity strongly condemns the recent video depicting members of the beta-beta chapter as this conduct is contrary to the inclusiveness and principles valued by Kappa Sigma.”

Both Ried and Isaac believe the University of Richmond’s unwillingness to address a series of concerns from its Black students helped foster an environment where students like the ones in the video would feel it is okay to sing and dance to a racist song.

“At this point, it’s very clear that the university is very complicit, and you can see it in the way that they run the spaces on campus and the refusal to change and things like that are implicit approvals of white supremacy,” Reid said of the university.

The University of Richmond has a student population of around 4,000 students with around 300 Black, 390 Hispanic/Latino, 260 Asian.

Many Black students are part of the Black Student Coalition on campus, which made demands of the university to help make the campus culture more inclusive. Some of their demands include creating an endowed Africana Studies program and renaming buildings on campus that do not uphold the Confederacy.

The Black students hope if the university address their specific concerns, the culture on campus can shift from one where racist videos from students exist to a more inclusive and welcoming environment to students of color.

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