ODU president decries racist music video that sparked controversy on campus

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A screenshot from the controversial music video taken Tuesday, February 21, 2017.
A screenshot from the controversial music video taken Tuesday, February 21, 2017. (Captured via YouTube)

NORFOLK – A controversial music video made the rounds in the Old Dominion University Twitter community on Tuesday after a student tweeted the video – called “White Power” – just before midnight Monday. 

The video, originally uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 4, shows a young woman wearing an ODU sweatshirt with a white towel draped over her head while a hip-hop beat plays in the background.

By 11 a.m. on Tuesday the video had more than 3,700 views and nearly 70 comments. Due to the nature of the video, Southside Daily chose not to publish or link to it. Around 11:20 a.m., the video was removed for “violating YouTube’s policy on hate speech.”

The video only circulated for a span of 12 hours, but many students on the university’s campus had already seen it before it was taken down. Many expressed their frustrations with the woman’s message and the university’s delay in addressing it.

ODU Democrats Vice President Jake Dafoe said he was horrified when he saw the video.

“It’s just astounding to believe that people can still be that outright with their white supremacy and violence,” Dafoe said. “I don’t think it’s representative of Republicans as a whole, but there are certainly elements that think that and reinforce those ideas. Trump hasn’t been forceful enough in coming out and saying that it isn’t acceptable behavior in 2017.”

Dafoe said he believes President Trump’s rhetoric has enabled similar conduct.

“As far as the administration’s response,” Dafoe said, “they should’ve been able to respond much sooner.”

Though it hasn’t been confirmed that the woman in the video is a university student, Tagee Blackman said if she does take classes on the Norfolk campus, the video would make it difficult for her to continue her education at the university.

“If she feels as strongly as she expressed in the video, I don’t see her being able to exist comfortably on this campus,” Blackman said. “In terms of the city of Norfolk, we’re kind of a cornerstone of diversity and inclusivity.”

Dafoe said he agreed and believes she should be expelled.

In a screenshot of the music video, the woman points what appears to be a gun while wearing a mask and a shirt that reads "My President Is White" above a picture of President Donald Trump's face.
In a screenshot of the music video, the woman points what appears to be a gun while wearing a mask and a shirt that reads “My President Is White” above a picture of President Donald Trump’s face. (Captured via YouTube)

The woman, who calls herself White Gal and claims to be an ODU student and aspiring rapper, starts the song with a stream of expletives, the racially charged “N-word” among them.

Later, she is seen wearing a T-shirt with President Donald Trump’s face, the words “My President Is White” printed above his head, while she holds what appears to be a gun pointed at the camera. The student later stubs a cigarette out on a small piece of paper that says “Black Lives Matter.”

Throughout the video, the phrases “N—– HISTORY MONTH” and “KILL ALL N——” are captioned on the screen. During the chorus, the woman repeatedly sings “white power.”

“Back to the plantations picking cotton,” the woman says, “…and Martin Luther King, I’m glad he got shot in the head.”

On Tuesday afternoon, ODU posted a letter on Facebook from university president John Broderick and Student Government Associated President Rachael Adams.

“This is an outrageous act of hate and intolerance and we are sickened by this vile video,” they wrote. “There is no place on this campus for hate and divisiveness.”

ODU’s counseling center is open to anyone needing support and staff from the Office of Intercultural Relations are also available.

Faculty and staff were given talking points to abide by in classes on Tuesday, affirming that “ODU is proud to be an inclusive and diverse community” and “the video in no way represents our campus or our students, faculty, or staff.”

WODU, the university’s radio station, is working to create a video response. Ron Rugg, the station’s operations director, said that they are working with student organizations impacted by the video to send a message that ODU doesn’t condone the woman’s actions.

“We don’t want to give this person the power that they’re demanding to continue to do these types of videos,” Rugg said. “We want to discredit that and move on from there and show that we don’t care for this type of behavior and we won’t give any kind of validity to it.”

Around 11 p.m. on Monday evening, students began retweeting the video, encouraging each other to place calls and write emails to Broderick.

“Although Old Dominion University has set forth a movement to increase the acceptance of diversity within our community, it is quite apparent that the issue of racism at hand has not abated,” one student wrote in a letter, which she then screenshot and tweeted around 1 a.m. on Tuesday.

Another student tweet lists Broderick’s phone number and email address with the words “light it up.”

Student organizations also took to Twitter to denounce the music video. The university’s NAACP chapter tweeted that “blatant racism and disrespect towards the black community, black lives, black history or any group will not be accepted at ODU.” The chapter said they will hold a meeting – which will only be only to students and faculty – on Tuesday night in the Webb Center to discuss the video.

Blackman said that even though the message was an expression of hatred, he won’t respond to it with anger.

“There are always going to be instances where people express hatred in ways that can’t necessarily be contained or anticipated, so knowing that, you just have to act gracefully and continue to work in a way that discourages that behavior,” Blackman said.

University police are investigating the video. If you have any information, ODU asks that you contact the police department at 757-683-4000.