Bomb threats were made against at least eight historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the United States on Jan. 4, 2022.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (formerly Arkansas AM & N College) was one of the institutions targeted.
Three other HBCUs in Arkansas were targeted: Arkansas Baptist College and Philander Smith College in Little Rock; and Shorter College in North Little Rock.
I am a Black judge and pastor who was born, reared and educated in the American South during the final years of the Jim Crow era. I have lived most of my life in the American South since that time.
The American South is where I obtained my law degree and my law license, and where I practiced law, and it is where I was licensed and ordained as a minister in the religion of Jesus, and where my wife and I raised our sons.
My understanding about racialized violence and terrorism is not academic. It does not come from taking classes, reading articles and books and viewing documentary movies. It comes from personal, lived experience.
I take bomb threats against HBCUs seriously because I know the history of terrorism carried out in this society against Indigenous, Black and other persons of color.
That history includes acts and threats of physical violence. It includes bomb attacks on churches, civil rights workers and preachers. Black students have been targeted across the history of this society.
The motive of those acts and threats of violence is the same now as it has always been. White supremacists use violence to intimidate and terrorize Black people who will not be dominated by other means.
My message to students at HBCUs is the same message Black elders gave me and other youth when we encountered threats of racial violence:
“Keep your head up. Stay alert. Do not back down. Do not allow hateful people to frighten you out of being who you can be. Do not allow them to set the boundaries for your thoughts, dreams and actions. Fear not!”
Black people are not strangers to acts and threats of violence. We are not strangers to bombings and bomb threats. We are not strangers to lynch mobs and their threats.
We have always known that actual and threatened violence is part of what is now called “white fragility.”
Black students, faculty and staff members at HBCUs will not ignore the reality of actual and threatened violence from insecure white people. However, they will not be intimidated, bullied or terrorized out of the activism that is part of the high traditions of Black faith and education.
The message of Black students, faculty and staff at HBCUs is the message of Black people everywhere else:
“White supremacists, we see you. We know you want to terrorize us. We will stand together and press onward despite your threats and acts. We are not afraid of you, white supremacists. We are not afraid.”
Pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, a retired state court trial judge, a trustee of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, author of one book and three blogs, a consultant on cultural competency and inclusion, and a contributing correspondent at Good Faith Media.