Students and Old Dominion University officials on Tuesday forcefully condemned a racially offensive rap video featuring a young white woman in an ODU sweatshirt.
As the video spread through social media, the university president issued a statement calling it "outrageous" and "vile," and the campus chapter of the NAACP organized a "safe space" to discuss it and decide what steps should be taken.
“It’s scary to know that in 2017, I could be sitting next to someone in class who wants to see me back on a plantation or hung,” said Matt Thomas, ODU NAACP public relations chair.
YouTube has since removed the video that was posted Feb. 4. After someone shared it on Twitter Monday night, it racked up more than 3,500 views and prompted outrage online. It was removed a little before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday “for violating YouTube’s policy on hate speech,” according to the website.
Titled “White Gal – White Power,” the video showed a white woman in an ODU sweatshirt using a series of expletives in a rap rant against black people. The woman encourages killing all black people, using a highly offensive term, and holds a gun to the camera. She is also shown crushing a lit cigarette over a napkin that reads “Black Lives Matter” and wearing a T-shirt that says “My President is White.”
A user called "Wobble Head" posted the video. It includes a tagline that says “ODU student aspired rapper.”
Neither The Virginian-Pilot nor the university could determine whether the person in the video is an ODU student.
At the "safe space" on campus Tuesday night, more than 100 people – including ODU faculty and students, and students from Hampton and Norfolk State universities – listened and spoke.
“A lot of time when things of racial content happen on campus, the student body looks to the NAACP to take action,” said KeVonya Webb-Riley, ODU NAACP education chair. “I feel like in the black community, people don’t know where to start when it comes to taking action so we want to be a resource, a shoulder to lean on and a seed so that when/if future things happen, they don’t necessarily have to look to us but be leaders beside us to make change.”
Community activists were also present, including Rocky Hines, founder of the Young Black Council, and Japharii Jones, founder of BlackLivesMatter757.
“It was hurtful,” Hines said. “For it to actually go into full detail about what should happen to black people in the world was extremely hurtful.”
Jones said he’d like to see other universities react swiftly to incidents like the video, and said he appreciates ODU’s quick response.
“We’d like to let the ODU students know that we’re here for you,” he said.
ODU President John Broderick said in a statement to students Tuesday that the university “fosters a climate of inclusion.”
“This morning, the University community learned of an extremely offensive video circulating online that features a person wearing an Old Dominion University branded shirt. This is an outrageous act of hate and intolerance and we are sickened by this vile video,” Broderick said in the statement. “There is no place on this campus for hate and divisiveness.”
Thomas with the campus NAACP said the video was both corny and disrespectful.
“To be honest, I didn’t finish the video the first time I watched it. I was trying to process what I heard,” Thomas said. “It was blatantly disrespectful and racist. … Being this disrespectful to black lives, black history during black history month, the timing of that is even worse."
"These types of incidents stand as a stark reminder that we must continue our resolve to educate on the importance of civility and inclusion,” Broderick said. “It is what we as a Monarch Nation stand for and represent every day.”
Speakers at the safe space said more civility and inclusion is needed.
“I was relieved to see how many people came together after the video,” said Nathan Croslin, an ODU junior. “There’s not enough unification just yet, but the students are doing our best to bring everybody together.”
Alli Luke of Norfolk said she is scared to walk around her neighborhood now because she felt like it gave people free license to act like the woman in the video. She said the safe space brought a lot of people together who “were able to get our necessary emotions they wouldn’t be able to get out otherwise.”
Speakers also asked faculty if they were investigating to see whether the person in the video is a student, and if that student would be identified.
Ellen Neufeldt, ODU vice president for Student Engagement and Enrollment Services, said the woman has not been identified and everything has been shared with the ODU chief of police. If the person in the video was a student, Neufeldt said the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act would not allow the identification of the student or any disciplinary action taken.
“All of our students are important to our community, and right now some of our students do not feel safe in light of this video. I want to make sure every student knows that they feel safe at ODU, that we care and that they have support,” she said.
Said James Boyd, Portsmouth NAACP president: “If the the person is a student, they should be removed from the school.”
Anyone with information about the video should call ODU police at 757-683-4000.
Broderick also said the school’s counseling center is open to anyone who needs support.
This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com.