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A spirit that is not afraid

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | To those students who are Black at Auburn: You are not alone

<p>As a university in the American South, Auburn has a well-documented history of racial prejudice, injustice and segregation.&nbsp;</p>

As a university in the American South, Auburn has a well-documented history of racial prejudice, injustice and segregation. 

To Those Students Who Are Black at Auburn:

Something resembling a noose was found on the evening of November 20th, in a public space, here at Auburn University. Campus Safety responded quickly, denounced racial intolerance/insensitivity, and started an investigation. The suspect was found.

But there are people who will not see you, your hurt, or your humanity in this

moment. They will tell you lynchings were isolated, somewhat random acts of vigilante justice. They will not tell you that lynchings were ritual - rituals so woven into the American fabric that they would be remembered, passed down, and echoed in different iterations.

This will be heavy… but there is history and there is order to these rituals:

Find a rope strong enough to hold the heaviest of Black bodies. Locate a place that is as hidden as it is public, and make sure it is spacious enough to cradle an excessive amount of hate. Find a tree unwilling to bow under the weight of Black humanity; one that can bear the pain of repetition. Gather a community. Round up both the distinguished and nondescript people of the town. Tell them their presence is requested to witness the staging of antiblackness. Tell them to bring their children, for violence must be learned early if it hopes to have a legacy. Choose a victim, but mislabel him or her criminal first. 

Perfect a knot. Tie it tight enough that it won’t allow air to pass through human flesh, tight enough to steal life from a person fighting to still breathe or love or pray. Keep the body suspended or on fire for an extended period of time. The goal of the lynching is not to break the body, it is to kill the spirit. Make memorabilia of this violence and hate, and create a narrative which allows the act to be justifiable in a court of law and forgivable in the court of public opinion. This is how you execute this ritual, and how you execute blackness.

They will tell you that since there was no body attached to that noose, there was no victim. But I know differently. And you know differently. ‘Cause we feel differently.

They will forget that the object of the rope was never to just lynch the body, was never just to steal the life, but also to break the spirit of those who were to remain, to train them to move cautiously, to tiptoe in the day and to not move at all at night. They will tell you that they abhor such demonstrations of racism, all while saying this might not actually be related to race. And truthfully, while it might not be motivated by race, it is always related. But they will forget that you do not have the privilege of possibility. They will forget how vulnerable Black flesh and psyche and heart and humanity are to the touch or prospect of hate. They will forget how terror is inherited and reproduced, and how Black people do not have the luxury of waiting until they discover the intention or motive or person behind the act. They will forget how you might be hurting or bleeding or suffering at just the thought of it. They will forget the power of such a symbol, and how its power moves beyond its intention. They will forget that time is never on the side of Black folks, so even the thought

of lynching must be taken seriously and immediately. They will forget the tenderness of your humanity. They will forget to tend to you.

But I will not. I know this week might have stolen your joy and replaced it with terror. I know that you might be angry and afraid, enraged and broken. I know you might be struggling to be seen or heard or felt, that you might grapple with whether you mean something to this place, which is still learning how best to hold your humanity. I know these types of situations are not easy, and I know you might feel alone.

I want you to know that you are not alone in this world, on this campus, or in this place. I want you to know that we, the undersigned Black faculty and staff at Auburn, see you in all of the beauty and complexity of your young human selves. I want you to know we ache with you in the same ways; we wrestle with the same horrors and fears and terrors; we are fighting alongside you to be seen and heard and felt. And more than anything else, I want you to know that we are here, we are here with and for you.

If any of you need to talk, or need a space to process or vent or cry or laugh, please know you can reach out to any or all of us. Please know we are here for you beyond the classroom and the quads, beyond the academic and social spaces. We are a part of your community; we want you to come to us when you need us; we want you to know that we love you in all of the light and through all of the darkness here at Auburn University.

With love and community,

  • Dr. Ernest L. Gibson III (

Associate Professor of English and Co-Director of Africana Studies College of Liberal Arts

  • Dr. Martina P. McGhee ( Assistant Clinical Professor of Elementary Education
  • Dr. Bridgett A. King ( Assistant Professor of Political Science
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Master of Public Administration Program Director

  • Dr. Evelyn A. Hunter ( Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology
  • Dr. Stacey C. Nickson (

Director, Center for Educational Outreach and Engagement

  • Dr. Kimberly Mulligan (

COSAM, Assistant Dean of Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity

  • Dawn Morgan ( Coordinator, Emerge at Auburn Leadership Programs Student Involvement | Auburn Student Affairs


Tajuan Sellars Coordinator, Admissions

College of Veterinary Medicine

  • Dr. Melody Russell ( Professor of Science Education and

Assistant Department Head Department of Curriculum and Teaching

  • Guy Emerson Mount ( Assistant Professor of African American History Department of History
  • Dr. Cheryl D. Seals (

Professor of Computer Science & Software Engineering College of Engineering

College of Liberal Arts

  • Dr. Joan R. Harrell ( Diversity Coordinator

School of Communication and Journalism

  • Dr. Nicole D. Linen ( Clinical Psychologist

Auburn Athletics

  • Austin McCoy ( Assistant Professor of History

College of Liberal Arts

  • Dr. Adrienne Duke

Associate Professor/Extension Specialist Human Development and Family Studies

  • Dr. Felicia Tuggle ( Assistant Professor of Social Work College of Liberal Arts
  • Sherrie Gilbert ( Lecturer

School of Communication and Journalism

  • Stephanie Morawo, M.Ed ( Academic Advisor III

Harbert College of Business


  • Jasmine Prince, M.Ed ( Assistant Director for Inclusive Excellence Initiatives Office of Inclusion & Diversity
  • Garry Morgan, M.Ed (

Special Assistant for Inclusion and Diversity Education Office of Inclusion and Diversity

  • Dr. Jocelyn Vickers ( ) Director for Inclusion and Diversity Education Office of Inclusion and Diversity
  • Dr. Viviane Koua ( Senior Lecturer of French

Co-director of Africana Studies

  • Erin Hutchins ( Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator Office of Alumni Affairs
  • Onikia Brown, PhD, RD Associate Professor

Nutrition, Dietetics, and Hospitality Management

  • Duante Stanton ( Director of Development

College of Education

  • Dr. Leonard Taylor, Jr. (

Assistant Professor; Educational Foundations, Leadership and Technology College of Education

  • Benard Goins, M. Ed ( Coordinator of Greek Life
  • Angie Colvin Burque, LICSW ( Associate Clinical Professor, Social Work

College of Liberal Arts

School of Communication and Journalism

  • Dr. Megan-Brette Hamilton Assistant Professor

Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences


  • Edward Reynolds Development Officer

Office of Development | Office of Inclusion and Diversity

  • Dr. Michael Brown ( Professor

School of Kinesiology

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