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Spokane NAACP responds to racist graffiti at EWU's campus

Spokane NAACP President Kurtis Robinson said university leaders need to take stronger action against the racism impacting their students.

SPOKANE, Wash. — When Spokane NAACP President Kurtis Robinson heard about what happened on Eastern Washington University’s campus last week, he said he let out a heavy sigh.

"That heavy sigh being, 'Here we go again,'" Robinson said. "We’re still here. Not much has changed, if anything.”

Last Tuesday, EWU Black Student Union President Sierra Alexander said she found a racist message on campus. 

She said it was written in the dance studio the BSU has been using for the last five months to prepare for the Black Excellence Ball.

She told KREM2 this isn’t the first time black students have been on the receiving end of racism. 

“I was disappointed but I was not surprised this happened," Alexander said. "The impact, definitely, we were angry, upset, but we decided that because this isn’t the first or second time this has happened we were going to go public with it.” 

The BSU posted a photo of the racist graffiti that included the N-word and expletive on Instagram. Alexander also shared a statement calling on the university and community leaders to support the students who feel targeted.

"The first part of education is bringing awareness and showing things like this, racism, anti-Blackness is something that still needs to be addressed,” Alexander said.

EWU said university administration was notified of the incident Wednesday while President Dr. Shari McMahan was out of town.

Two days after Alexander found the graffiti, Dr. McMahan released a statement in response to the incident:

"Dear campus community,

As Diversity & Inclusion Week approaches, this is an important reminder that this community will not tolerate discriminatory behavior or other intolerant acts at Eastern Washington University. Incidents meant to denigrate students, faculty or staff go against our very mission of providing opportunities for personal transformation. We value respect, integrity, and honor toward others; we do not condone hateful or bias language or behaviors. This week is a reminder to us all, we celebrate diversity and work daily toward creating a welcoming, inclusive environment for all students, faculty, and staff to succeed and thrive. Hate is not welcome here.

EWU’s police department is actively investigating hateful graffiti found in the dance studio. If anyone has information about who may have been involved, please contact Detective Schmitter immediately at 509-359-7676."

Robinson said this incident called for a stronger response.

“By not naming for the racism it is, by not naming it for the white supremacy culture dynamics that it is, by not naming it, the organizational and personal responsibility to get in front of this and stay in front of this, you’re giving it a hall pass to continue,” Robinson said.

In calling this out, Robinson said it's also a call in. He said this is an opportunity for the university to step up with a tangible action plan.

"Hey, it’s good you did something, but you need to do more,” Robinson said.  

EWU said it supports the BSU and students of color.

The university said police are actively investigating the racist message, implementing additional safety measures and have conducted a safety walk through of the dance studio.

EWU Vice President for Diversity and Senior Diversity Officer, Dr. Shari J. Clarke, said BSU students are invited to participate in an upcoming discussion with Black faculty, staff and community leaders.

Robinson said the Spokane NAACP will be present at that discussion.

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