“Blacks must remain subordinate or be exterminated – Tillman,” read one of the pieces of graffiti spray-painted on Old Main Hall this week at Clemson University, where I’m a graduate student. It’s a quote from a former South Carolina governor, the white supremacist and terrorist Benjamin Tillman, after whom Old Main Hall is technically named.
Though the vandals haven’t made their intentions clear, they also spray-painted “Tillman was a violent racist,” “RIP Sen. Coker,” (an apparent reference to the 19th century black state senator, murdered as he prayed and Tillman watched in 1876) and “RIP Sen. Pinckney” (a reference to the state senator killed at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston) on Monday morning. In other places across the country, Confederate monuments and memorials have, of late, been vandalized with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
In response to the graffitied building at Clemson, white supremacists raised a Confederate flag on the same campus building while holding a “heritage” rally on Monday night. By Tuesday morning, campus was scrubbed clean of both the condemnatory graffiti and Confederate flags, just in time for all the orientation groups and campus tours filled with bright-eyed prospective Clemson Tigers.
Neither incident is being addressed responsibly by the university, and both current and potential students are being sold a whitewashed version of the school’s complicated racial history.