Editor’s Note: This story contains incidents of racism and vulgarities that may be triggering for some readers.
Multiple racist incidents have been reported at Ohio University recently, sparking outrage and investigations campus-wide.
One of the incidents involved a trash bag with a racist note taped to it being placed outside of a residence room in Sargent Hall, located on West Green, on Sunday. The note contained racist language, including the words “trash n------ b----” along with a drawing of two faces and the word “c---” above them. Images of the bag circulated on social media, with students and others expressing their frustrations with the hate crime.
Naomi Hamner, a freshman studying pre-nursing, believes the trash bag and note were directed at her. Though the bag was not placed at her door, she said she is the only Black student at the end of her hall, besides the resident assistant, leading her to believe the person who left the bag mistook someone else’s door for her own.
“I've never been in this situation before. I've never had that kind of experience. Quite frankly, I didn't think I would have this experience at this … age,” Hamner said. “Reading the message, it really did put a little fear in me, and it kind of made my stomach drop because, in my head, I'm like, ‘How can somebody think of me this way?’”
Hali Bridges, a freshman studying psychology and one of Hamner’s friends, said the trash bag incident was the latest incident Black students in Sargent are concerned about. Bridges lives one floor above Hamner and said someone taped a Black baby doll to a door in December 2021. Though she was not sure who did it or what was meant by the action, she and others felt threatened.
Bridges also said a month later, someone destroyed a Black History Month bulletin board on her floor. Those two incidents, in addition to the current situation, have made Black students feel nervous, scared and alienated, Bridges said.
“A lot of us are angry because, of course, (whoever left the bag) had to be either in the dorm or let into the dorm for this to happen,” she said. “It’s someone that you know. It could be your neighbor (who) wanted to do a hate crime.”
Bridges also believes Hamner was the target of the trash bag hate crime.
On Monday, OU published a news release condemning racism and assured students, faculty and staff it will work to hold those who committed the acts accountable.
“We stand in solidarity with those who were directly affected, and incidents like this ultimately impact all of us,” the news release stated. “We all have a responsibility to care for and treat each other with respect and dignity. Racism is not tolerated on our campuses and does not reflect our values as an institution."
On Monday, a day after the trash bag incident, Christopher Brown, a resident assistant in James Hall on West Green, posted pictures on social media of the aftermath of an individual urinating on his door at 2:30 a.m. In his posts, Brown said he is the only Black resident assistant on his floor and said the person who urinated on his door was a white resident.
Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson, said the Ohio University Police Department, or OUPD, had caught and charged the individual responsible for urinating on Brown’s door. Currently, Leatherwood said, OUPD did not believe the incident was racially motivated.
OUPD has opened investigations into the trash bag and urination incidents, which Leatherwood said did not appear to be connected. Additionally, the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance is reviewing each case to determine if they are within the office’s jurisdiction, and the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility plans to open internal investigations into the misconduct.
According to OU’s news release, the university is also working to ensure anyone affected by the situation has a way to process their thoughts and feelings. Mya “Bunny” Wilson, a senior studying linguistics, is one such student to whom the university’s efforts may apply.
“I, as a Black person, I love being Black, and I love who I am,” Wilson said. “But it's just so draining because of all the stuff that we have to go through as Black people — not just Black people in America but Black people all over the world — like, when is this anti-Blackness going to end? Why can't we just exist in peace?”
While investigations into each of the incidents progress, Bridges said she and her Black friends feel they have to find unique ways to feel upset about the situation because of the color of their skin, a sentiment with which both Wilson and Hamner agree.
“I've been able to kind of take the high road, to say the least, and try to take the smart way out of the situation rather than just yelling and making a fuss because it wouldn't work that way,” Hamner said. “I do have a little bit of anger still within me, but I'd rather put that anger towards something that could really help rather than something that could hurt me in the end.”