An annual tradition for Black students at the University of South Carolina was interrupted on Friday night by white supremacists who crashed the online event with a deluge of “images, videos and messages containing racist slurs and derogatory terms,” according to participants. It was the latest instance of overt anti-Black racism associated with the university this year as the unfortunate trend of so-called “zoombombing” flourishes during the coronavirus pandemic.
As with most in-person events during this public health crisis, the Association of African American Students at The University of South Carolina’s annual cookout was forced to adhere to special distancing guidelines and instead switched to an online meetup hosted on Zoom, the popular online platform that hosts virtual meetings. But the cookout, traditionally held as the academic year comes to an end, was abruptly interrupted when racist imagery began appearing on the screen, including blackface and a Nazi flag, according to a video posted to social media by one of the participants.
“We were having a little party courtesy of the African American Association of Students when some random racists/neo-nazis, i assume teenagers, jumped on the meeting,” a tweet from an account credited to Aidan Baker said in part. “white ppl: PLEASE check your kids.”
Baker, described on a University of South Carolina webpage as a student government leader, tweeted a subsequent appeal for people to help “identify these racists/neo-nazis.” The Association of African American Students at The University of South Carolina also released a separate statement.
“During the cookout, unknown persons entered and proceeded to post a plethora of images, videos and messages containing racist slurs and derogatory terms,” the statement said in part. “We are completely repulsed by the actions of these individuals and offer our support to those who were subject to or in any way impacted by it.”
University of South Carolina President Robert Caslen tweeted that the school was investigating the matter.
Colleges and universities have been especially targeted by the so-called zoombombers, who gain access to the private online meetings by acquiring requisite codes. Many times those codes are illicitly shared on social media. In fact, zoombombing is just one of the ways that social distancing is inadvertently fostering anti-Black rhetoric online.
However, in this instance, the Association of African American Students at The University of South Carolina made its code for the cookout public by tweeting it Friday.
The zoombombing came about three months after a University of South Carolina student was expelled for posting a racist image on the annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday showing three white women taking a selfie that was accompanied by the caption, “Happy [N-word] day.” That followed a series of fliers being posted around campus that the State reported “blamed African-Americans for the election of President Donald Trump, but used racially insensitive language to do so.”
And that was just the recent examples.
In 2018, racist signs posted in the University of South Carolina’s African American Studies Department reading, “Dumb Black Asses” and “You Stupid Monkeys.” That was months after students at the University of South Carolina found signs posted around their campuses that read, “It’s okay to be White.”
And in 2015, a University of South Carolina student was suspended for using the N-word on social media. The unidentified student posted a photo featuring “Reasons Why USC Wifi Blows” and used the racial slur alongside other reasons like “ratchets,” “incompetent professors,” and more.
This is America.