Black employees at Liberty University have started resigning after University President Jerry Falwell Jr. made a racist tweet on May 27 featuring an image of blackface and someone in a KKK hood.
Falwell had made the post as a way to shame Virginia Governor Eric Northam after his executive order requiring state residents to wear facemasks in public to help slow the spread of the COVID-19. As of June 7, the state has the 12th highest number of overall coronavirus cases in the United States. The state reached it’s third-highest ever daily toll of new cases.
Northam faced calls to resign in early 2019 after an image from his medical school’s 1984 yearbook showed a picture of him in blackface standing next to someone wearing a KKK hood.
Falwell said in his tweet about Northam’s executive order said he would only wear a face mask if it could have that racist yearbook image printed on it.
Falwell’s opposition to facemasks isn’t surprising as he reopened Liberty University during the epidemic, leading to a dozen students getting sick. Falwell also threatened to sue journalists who reported about the matter.
In response to Falwell’s tweet, 35 Black Liberty University alumn wrote a 2-page public letter to him saying that they were “disappointed and deeply grieved by [his] incendiary rhetoric” which “made light of our nation’s painful history of slavery and racism.”
“The reckless nature of this tweet is a microcosm of the past several years of divisive rhetoric that does not display the kind of Christian witness that Gospel demands of us,” the letter stated. “It has brought further disgrace to Jesus Christ and Liberty University.” The letter also said that Falwell’s past “infantile behavior” belittled staff, students and parents.
“It has become obvious to many that your heart is in politics more than Christian academia or ministry,” the letter continued, “so we would encourage you to leave the position of school president and pursue politics full-time.”
The letter asked for Falwell to delete the tweet, apologize and discuss the incident with them. A petition associated with the letter also gained over 37,300 signatures at this article’s time of publication.
More than 30 former African-American Liberty University students are calling on Jerry Falwell Jr. to step down as president of the school.
“There are many Christians of color who worship in our churches and communities; we will not recommend their attendance at L.U.” pic.twitter.com/jTe5QvL8N7
— Richard Chumney (@RichChumney) June 1, 2020
In response to Falwell’s racist tweet, Keyvon Scott, a Black admissions counselor at the university, announced his resignation because he said he couldn’t encourage attendance at a school with “racially insensitive leadership and culture.”
Quan McLaurin, the former director of diversity retention also resigned and so did Black professor, Christopher A. House.
In response to the growing outrage, Fawell deleted the tweet and published a multi-Tweet non-apology that reinforced the letter’s assertions that he was more interested in politics than reconcilliation.
After listening to African American LU leaders and alumni over the past week and hearing their concerns, I understand that by tweeting an image to remind all of the governor’s racist past I actually refreshed the trauma that image had caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point. Based on our long relationships, they uniformly understood this was not my intent, but because it was the result I have deleted the tweet and apologize for any hurt my effort caused, especially within the African American community.
In October 2016, students at Liberty University criticized Falwell for his continued support of President Donald Trump. In August 2017, Falwell defended Trump calling white supremacist protestors “very fine people.”