VMI FORCED TO FACE RACISM AS EVENTS CASCADE
Virginia Military Institute (VMI), founded in 1839 in Lexington, is facing perhaps the most seismic crisis of its existence. In 1996, former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority in United States v. Virginia et al that barring women from attending the school was unconstitutional. In recent weeks, however, VMI has made news almost daily in reference to its racist history and present treatment of Black students.
VMI has promised to uproot racism for decades. But in recent weeks, multiple reports have surfaced, including the following: A White sophomore threatened to “lynch” a Black freshman. An adjunct professor waxed nostalgic for the great Ku Klux Klan parties her father attended. A top administrator appeared in a photograph featuring an anti-Mexican slur. A training sergeant, who serves as a mentor to cadets, used social media as an outlet for his racist rage and rants.
Governor Northam ordered an investigation into “this appalling cult of ongoing racism.” Then the superintendent resigned. Later, reports surfaced about internal VMI social media being used against Black cadets. The VMI Board voted to remove the statue of Stonewall Jackson on campus.. Finally, it became known that two Board members resigned before the vote.
A military institution engendering racial bias is clearly not in the public interest. Its association with Virginia is completely unacceptable and dishonorable. It’s time to discharge such conduct as unbecoming.
ATHLETIC SUPPORTERS OF EQUALITY
At William and Mary, women athletes are proving themselves to be quite the supporters. The women’s track team is refusing to represent the college unless the men’s team is reinstated.
The 26 female track and field athletes are protesting the elimination of the men’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams at the end of this academic year. The men’s teams—as well as the men’s and women’s gymnastics and swimming teams and the women’s volleyball team—were slated for elimination in a September letter that detailed the budget deficits the athletic department faces at present and in the next three years. However, in mid-October, the women’s volleyball, gymnastics, and swimming teams were reinstated–to avoid a Title IX lawsuit.
In letters to the school’s president, athletic director, and rector of the Board of Visitors, the women’s team further protested “the dishonest manner in which these decisions were arrived at.” They went on, “With the callous removal of Men’s Track & Field, we have lost our training partners, our teammates, and our friends; for the past decades, we have shared facilities, travel, equipment, coaches, and memories with our Men’s team. We demand nothing less than the reinstatement of ALL the programs and a faculty-partnered approach to a long-term solution.” The team members further questioned the lack of transparency in the process and the way in which the decision to eliminate the men’s team was made.
Imagine! Only 100 years after receiving the vote, some women are demanding equality for males.
FREDERICK WATER RESUMES CUTOFFS FOR DELINQUENT CUSTOMERS
Since resuming disconnections for delinquent water and sewer accounts on Oct. 14, Frederick Water has been disconnecting service to 30-70 customers a day. The coronavirus pandemic resulted in Frederick Water suspending penalties and disconnections in March. In August, the board voted to resume them in October. The number of delinquent accounts totaled about one-third of the company’s 17,000 customers. The average delinquent residential customer owes about $220, but some bills are as high as $600.
Most customers who were in arrears quickly entered into payment plans and paid their bills. In addition to paying their past due bills, delinquent customers must pay a $50 reconnection fee to have their water turned back on.
So, the water company’s enlightened policy is to assess a $50 fee against folks who could not pay? Let them drink beer? Perhaps the better public policy is to fold water authorities into standing government services and eliminate such special “taxes.”
QUIET HERO IN THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY
Governor Northam has ordered flags in the Commonwealth to be flown at half-staff on the day of interment to honor the recent death of former Delegate Bernard S. Cohen, the attorney who successfully challenged a Virginia law banning interracial marriage. He and his legal colleague represented Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman who were convicted of illegally cohabiting as man and wife and ordered to leave Virginia for 25 years. The conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court in its landmark 1967 case Loving v. Virginia, in which the Court found that laws against interracial marriage are unconstitutional.
In an interview, Cohen told the Associated Press in 1992 that Richard Loving requested that he pose to the Supreme Court a simple proposition: I don’t understand why if a man loves a woman he can’t marry her no matter what her color. That formulation has been repeated in more recent times with respect to same-sex marriages.
Northam also recently declared Juneteenth a state holiday. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day, is an American holiday celebrated on June 19. It marks the day (June 19, 1865) that news of the Emancipation Proclamation (issued January 1, 1863) reached Texas, which was the last state to abolish slavery.
When will we ever learn?