A number of portraits of tenured African American professors at Harvard Law School were discovered defaced on Thursday morning, marked up with a single slash of black tape covering their faces.
The incident is being investigated by University Police as a “hate crime.”
In a statement released Thursday afternoon Harvard School Law Dean Martha Minow condemned the vandalism adding, “Here at HLS, we are focused on efforts to improve our community, examining structures that may contribute to negative experiences of any members of our community, and pursuing opportunities where the School can both change and support change.”
Despite the low-brow vandalism at the Ivy-league institution, many students were stunned but not surprised, according to Rena Karefa-Johnson, head of Harvard Law’s Students for Inclusion. She said a culture of exclusion and racism has been alive and well ever since she started classes two and a half years ago.
“People tend to be more elegant in their racism,” she told NBCBLK. “But it is here as well as many other schools across the country. Harvard Law is intimately involved in maintaining the status quo here and in the world.”
In an essay for Blavity, First Year Law Student Michele Hall called the vandalism “a further reminder that white supremacy built this place, is the foundation of this place, and that we never have and still do not belong here.”
Karefa-Johnson believes the actions were in direct retaliation to an educational art exhibit displayed Wednesday night in support ofchanging the law school crestwhich is based on the crest of the school’s slave-owning founder, Isaac Royall. “These actions are very much connected to wanting to silence black student activists,” she said.
The black tape was removed by Thursday afternoon. In its place, students affixed post-it notes around the picture frames — “thank you”, “we love our black faculty”, and “you are a role model” — in support of the professors.