University of Mississippi freshman Jamal Woods isn’t sure he will be returning to the Oxford school after racial slurs were scrawled on his dorm room door and most recently “keyed” into his pickup.
The 19-year-old Olive Branch resident and his family announced Monday during a news conference with area civil rights leaders that they have asked for a meeting with university officials, and a $1,000 reward is being offered for information about the incidents.
“My son was so excited to go to Ole Miss,” said
Mary Woods. “He wanted to go to college before he went into the Air Force, so he would be ranked when he graduated. Now, with all that has happened to him, he is undecided if he will return to school. I fear for my son, and want him to be protected.”
Jamal Woods, who is African-American, reported to a campus police officer that on Aug. 24 he discovered lotion smeared on his dorm room door along with a derogatory comment.
In addition, police reported that an Asian racial slur was also found on another door on the 10th floor of the dorm.
Then on Aug. 26, dorm officials were contacted about more racial slurs on two other students’ doors. Other vandalism was also reported on other doors, and the 19 students on the 10th floor denied responsibility for the vandalism, Ole Miss officials said in a report.
Woods asked and was moved to another dorm. On Nov. 5, Woods was contacted by a campus police officer who reported that his pickup was vandalized. Several racial slurs were scratched with a key into the Chevrolet Silverado that Woods received as a graduation gift from his family.
His mother contacted Memphis civil rights leaders Rev. Dwight Montgomery, president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference Memphis, and Dr. LaSimba Gray, president of the Memphis chapter of Rainbow PUSH.
“The irony of this is it is the 50th anniversary of James Meredith having gone through this, where he had to be guarded every single day of every single minute. And now 50 years later, Jamal is having to go through the same thing,” Gray said after Monday’s news conference. “He needs protection, No. 1, so that his family knows that he is protected, and then he needs to be made whole in terms of his truck being repaired, and whoever did it needs to be brought to justice.”
Gray added that SCLC and Rainbow PUSH are offering a $1,000 reward for information about the racially charged incidents.
Montgomery said that a letter has also been sent to Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones asking for a meeting.
“We want that meeting as soon as possible,” Montgomery said. “Ole Miss (is) this prestigious university as we all know. We also know that many of the outstanding athletes that go to the university are African-American.
“We are not going to allow the school to use our African-American athletes and then allow the average student to be disrespected on campus. That is totally unacceptable.”
Ole Miss spokesman, Danny Blanton said by e-mail that Jones had not received the letter requesting a meeting with the Woods family and civil rights leaders, but “would be happy to meet with SCLC leadership.”
Blanton said that there has been an investigation into the incidents involving Woods since they were reported in August.
“FBI officials informed university officials that there was no evidence of any federal violations that could draw them into the investigation,” Blanton wrote in an e-mail sent Monday.
FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said in a voicemail that she would be out of her office in Jackson, Miss., until Tuesday.
This is the second recent racially charged incident reported in recent weeks at Ole Miss.
On Nov. 6, after President Barack Obama’s re-election, two students were arrested after hundreds demonstrated on campus. The demonstrations included racial slurs and reports of fireworks being tossed.
The investigation into this incident continues.
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