LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Following the apparent election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Louisville’s only Historically Black College has received two hate-fueled voice mails in recent days.
Celebrations across the country honored, in part, the fact that Vice President-Elect Harris is a graduate of an HBCU. By contrast, however, signs of hatred and racism surfaced, including in Louisville, home of Simmons College of Kentucky.
Over the weekend, Simmons received a voice mail from a man claiming his name was John, that was rooted in racism.
"Boy ya know, a few, me and a few of my upstanding white friends from the community would sure wish you would shut that n***** college down, ya know please tired of all you n**** starting problems with all the white folk around.”
Whitney Major, a graduating senior at Simmons, listened to the voice mail.
“He said, ‘We’re upstanding whites,’” she said. “How you a upstanding white when you’re pushing people that are (part of) all humanity, you’re pushing us out saying, ‘Shut it down?’"
Simmons Vice President Dr. Frank Smith said the school received a second message from the same person a few days later.
“Me and a few of my upstanding white friends sure wish you would shut that n***** n***** college down for God sake."
”Simmons College of Kentucky and many of the HBCUs reflect the fact that Blacks were shut out of opportunities, shut out of educational and financial opportunities," Smith said. “But our people insisted that they wouldn’t stop them, so they established their own colleges and universities.”
WAVE 3 News reached out to the FBI to find out how these actions are handled. The department said the following:
"It may rise to the level of harassment, but that would most likely be handled at the local level. Calls of this nature may rise to the level of harassment. That would be handled at the local level. In general, the FBI is tasked with defending civil rights in the U.S. Under federal law, the FBI can participate in a hate crimes investigation if certain requirements are met. (These requirements will give you an idea of the level to which an incident would need to escalate.)
- Use of force or the threat of force or conspiracy to use or threaten force, or willfully cause bodily injury;
- Targeting of the victim because of gender, sexual orientation, race, color, religion or national origin, and in the case of only housing cases also disability, gender or familial status;
- Additional motive to injure, intimidate or interfere with some specific federally protected activity or right.
In response to a credible complaint that a federal hate crime statute has been violated, the FBI will coordinate its investigation with the local law enforcement agency that has concurrent jurisdiction over this matter. Most complaints are received from a victim, witness or third party. Many cases are also initiated by media reports, community group complaints, referrals from the Department of Justice or US Attorneys, and congressional inquiries.
Smith said there are students like Major who are interested in having their culture and history at the forefront of their education.
“It’s an insult to America that we as a people have to explain and prove why we should exist as an HBCU,” Smith said. “Just the thought of that is dooming in a city that needs to flourish and provide educational opportunities.”
Smith said while the caller wants the school to shut down, several corporations and private donors are contributing to Simmons. He also said he thinks Louisville doesn’t always understand the value of having its own private HBCU and what it means to the community, the state and the country.
“I’m not going to fear them because I think that’s what they want us to do,” Major said. “All throughout our history, people want you to feel fearful for you to back down and give up, but we’re not about to do that. We have come too far.”
Simmons College, which was founded in 1879, has started an internal investigation and alerted the authorities. It couldn’t go into further detail, but said if prosecution fits, it will happen.