A family takes pictures during first year move-in day at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

In this week’s Hate Report: College campuses become a hotbed for hate incidents, a church shooting in Nashville is being investigated as a possible hate crime and a list of who’s calling the president a white supremacist. 

College students across America arrived on campus last fall to find an atmosphere of fear, anger and racial tension.

We’ve been hearing individual tales of hate incidents, but for the first time we have some idea of the scope, thanks to an investigation by BuzzFeed News.

Using the Documenting Hate database of hate crime tips, BuzzFeed found more than 400 alleged incidents since the 2016 elections, of which it was able to independently verify 154.

Here’s a snippet:   

Seemingly every sort of campus was struck, from Ivy League universities to community colleges, big state schools to small liberal arts institutions.

“It kind of shocked me,” Jack Levin, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston who has studied hate crimes, said of the wave of bias incidents at institutions of higher learning after the election. “There’s something new here. Emboldened hatemongers now feel that this is perfectly fine. What is happening on college campuses didn’t start there but is a product of the hate that is increasing all over.”

A majority of the incidents involved some kind of hate speech, but there were reports of physical violence against minority students, too. For example, a black female student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, was pushed to the ground and told, “no niggers allowed on the sidewalk,” by someone who claimed he was “just trying to make America great again.”

The new story examined several hate incidents that took place on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. In the months before August’s violent rally there, the university had already been the scene of several hate incidents, including misogynist and Islamophobic threats to students.

The story quotes Ian Ware, a student whose dorm-room door was defaced with the word “terrorist:”

It was kind of a whirlwind time at UVA. Shit was going down every five minutes.

The college investigation continues BuzzFeed’s excellent work covering hate in America’s educational institutions. Earlier this year, it looked at at K-12 campuses, with similar conclusions.

Here at the Hate Report, we have also been keeping tabs on the efforts by white supremacist organizations to recruit new members on college campuses and high schools. The Anti Defamation League found found 147 instances of white supremacist groups spreading flyers on campuses.

Across the country, mainstream white supremacists like Richard Spencer have sought to spread their message by appearing at events and making speeches on college campuses.

Just this week, a slew of Confederate flags with cotton stuck to them were found across the campus of American University in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this year, someone hung bananas around campus with messages alluding to the school’s first African American student body president, who was also targeted for harassment by neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

Tennessee mass shooting prompts FBI civil rights investigation

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into a mass shooting last Sunday at a Nashville-area church that left one woman dead and seven others injured. The shooter, Emanuel Samson, immigrated to the U.S. from Sudan as a child in 1996, according to several media reports.

Key to the decision to launch a civil rights investigation, a precursor to a possible federal hate crime charge, is the fact that the shooting happened in a place of worship, legal experts told The Tennessean.

Samson is black. The victim who died, as well as several of the injured parishioners, were white. Minister David “Joey” Spann, who was seriously injured in the attack, told the Associated Press he doesn’t think the attack was racially motivated, but he’s “sure everything’s going to be thrown at this to see what sticks.”

Samson had posted a series of bizarre Facebook posts before the shooting, The Tennessean reported. “Become the creator instead of the created,” read one. The newspaper also reported that he had once attended the church. The investigation is ongoing.

Who’s calling Trump a white supremacist

Donald Trump’s recent incendiary comments against professional athletes opened up the floodgates for public figures to do something that would have previously been unthinkable under previous administrations: openly call the sitting president of the United States a white supremacist.

Here’s a list:

  • A columnist for the Kansas City Star called Trump a white supremacist.
  • CNN analyst Keith Boykin did it live on air.
  • A North Carolina county commissioner did it in a tweet.
  • Actress Lena Dunham called Trump a “racist.”
  • In her recent best-selling book about the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton called the inauguration speech given by her GOP opponent, “a howl straight from the white nationalist gut.”
  • Before Trump’s Friday comments, ESPN commentator Jemele Hill had tweeted that he was a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” which led to White House officials calling on her to be fired.
  • New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote it was impossible to know if white supremacy is in Trump’s heart, “but there is mounting circumstantial evidence pointing in a most disquieting direction.”
  • Washington Post opinion writer Eugene Robinson echoed Blow, arguing, if Trump isn’t a white supremacist, he “does a convincing impression of one.”
  • The ACLU’s Jeffery Robinson voiced a similar sentiment: “If Donald Trump is not a white supremacist, his actions and words show a great deal of comfort with the values of white supremacy.”
  • Speaking on CNN, former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, who claims he was blacklisted from pro football for making his own political stand in support of the LGBT community, called Trump, “a racist, fascist white supremacist.”
  • Weeks before Trump targeted athletes such as Colin Kaepernick who kneeled during the national anthem, Ta-Nehisi Coates argued in The Atlantic that white supremacy was the foundational principle of Trump’s entire 2016 presidential campaign.

Erasing the swastika

When Michael Kent sat down at a tattoo parlor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to get his swastika tattoo removed, he was actively rejecting his past as a onetime neo-Nazi. Kent credits his change of heart to his friendship with Tiffany Whittier, a 45-year-old African American woman who served as Kent’s parole officer.

“I look at her as family,” Kent told NBC News, adding that, where he used to only associate with whites, he’s now going to birthday parties and quinceañeras with his dominantly Latino colleagues at the chicken farm where he works.

The tattoo removal was paid for by Redemption Ink, a nonprofit that offers free coverups for people with tattoos representing hate groups or gang affiliations. “There’s enough hate in our little world, and we can’t find anything wrong with wanting to erase some of it,” the group says on its website.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Tennessee church shooter Emanuel Samson’s national origin. He is originally from Sudan.

Sign up to get The Hate Report by email every Friday.

Have a hate incident to report? Tell us about it here, or contact the Hate Report team: Aaron Sankin can be reached at asankin@revealnews.org, and Will Carless can be reached at wcarless@revealnews.org. Follow them on Twitter: @asankin and @willcarless.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Aaron Sankin is a reporter for Reveal covering online extremism, election administration and technology policy. Before joining Reveal, he was a founding editor of The Huffington Post's San Francisco vertical and a senior staff writer on The Daily Dot's politics team. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Salon, Time, The Motley Fool, Mashable, Business Insider, San Francisco magazine and The Onion. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Sankin studied history and sociology at Rice University. His work at The Daily Dot was a finalist in Digiday's 2015 publisher of the year award, and a story he wrote about a Midwestern family being terrorized by a teenage hacker was labeled by The Atlantic as an essential piece of journalism for 2015. Sankin is based in Seattle.

Will Carless was a correspondent for Reveal covering extremism. He has worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia and South America. Prior to joining Reveal, he was a senior correspondent for Public Radio International’s Global Post team based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Before that, Will spent eight years at the Voice of San Diego, where he worked as an investigative reporter and head of investigations. During his tenure in San Diego, Will was awarded several prizes, including a national award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has been a finalist for the Livingston Awards for young journalists twice in the last five years. He surfs, spends time with his family, travels to silly places and pretends he’s writing a novel.