The College of Charleston has launched an investigation after a photo surfaced over the weekend of a person dressed in an orange jumpsuit labeled with the name of Freddie Gray, a black man who died after sustaining injuries while in custody of Baltimore police.
The College of Charleston Black Student Union put out a statement Monday claiming that both the person in the jumpsuit and the person who posted the photo online with the caption "ur going to jail tonight" are C of C students. The group is calling on the college to expel the students involved.
"Each year we are reminded of white supremacy and violence here at The College," the statement said in part. "A few of these acts include the racially charged shooting of nine innocent members of Mother Emanuel AME Church, a supporter of the Confederate Flag being the face of The College, continual displays of Confederate flags around campus, and being survivors of racially motivated hate speech and actions. We desire to feel safe and welcome in every realm, but unfortunately, that has not been the case."
The news comes amid calls for greater diversity and acceptance at the majority white public college. The statement went on:
"These are unacceptable behaviors that should not be tolerated. In these times, the disrespectful actions committed by these students cannot merely occur out of sheer ignorance. They occur because some people have a genuine disrespect for Black people and feel that Black culture is an open market of various elements to pick from and discard after use. Feeling safe is not being subjected to being viewed as objects and costumes that can be used to ridicule already marginalized communities."
In a statement Monday afternoon, College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell said the school's Division of Student Affairs and Department of Public Safety are conducting a full investigation to determine whether students violated the code of conduct or other college policies.
"This whole situation is very painful to many people, and I am extremely disappointed that something like this is connected to our university," McConnell wrote. "In no way does this behavior reflect our College of Charleston core values, especially as it relates to diversity, community and respect for the individual student. Our education and our campus community are about lifting each other up, not tearing each other down."
The photo has been shared more than 3,800 times on Facebook, where a former Baltimore resident posted it along with two other screenshots that allegedly showed students from that area's private schools and decried "the culture that continues to exist within Maryland's private schools."
Detrick Manning, who posted the photos, said he determined the names of the students involved by asking around in the tight-knit network of Baltimore private school alumni. He said students in the other two photos are current high school students, whereas the alleged College of Charleston student in the photo had graduated from a private school there.
"I understand the argument people make, that a small mistake shouldn’t ruin someone," Manning said Monday. "But at the same time, people of color have to deal with this every single day … That argument is only brought up when it’s a white teenager, never when it’s a person of color."
Meanwhile, the photos are making waves in Maryland, where The The Baltimore Sun reports that two private schools also have launched investigations into the matter.