Ole Miss fraternity expels member after viral video of him making monkey noises towards Black woman

The shocking incident showed a white counter-protester student, jumping up and down, making monkey noises toward a protester who was live-streaming on her phone at the University of Mississippi

Mike Bedigan,Andrea Cavallier
Monday 06 May 2024 20:16 BST
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'Ole Miss student' uses shocking racist taunt at Black woman during campus protest

A University of Mississippi fraternity has expelled a student who was caught on camera making monkey noises at a Black protester during a Gaza solidarity demonstration.

The shocking incident was captured on video, and showed the white student, a counter-protestor, jumping up and down, making monkey sounds toward the protester who was live-streaming on her phone.

Referring to Black people as monkeys is a known racist trope dating back hundreds of years and used to justify slavery and Jim Crow law.

The Phi Delta Theta fraternity said that it had reviewed the incident, which received widespread condemnation, and that the individual’s actions were “unacceptable”. The student was not named.

“The past few weeks have been challenging for many colleges and universities across the United States as they struggle to balance the protection of free speech with maintaining appropriate and respectful discourse among demonstrators and others within the campus community,” the fraternity said in a statement.

A student counter-protester is seen jumping up and down and making money noises towards a Black female protester at the University of Mississipi – known as Ole Miss – on Thursday
A student counter-protester is seen jumping up and down and making money noises towards a Black female protester at the University of Mississipi – known as Ole Miss – on Thursday (Stacey Spiehler via YouTube)

“As part of that community, Phi Delta Theta recognizes that freedom of expression is part of the collegiate experience; however, the Fraternity is committed to upholding its principles as a private membership organization.

“After reviewing the incident, it was determined that the individual’s behavior was unacceptable. The action in question was offensive, outside the bounds of this discourse, and contradictory to our values.

“In partnership with local alumni, undergraduate leadership, and the university, disciplinary due process was initiated which resulted in the removal of membership. The situation will continue to be monitored in cooperation with any further investigation.”

The Independent has asked The University of Mississippi – colloquially known as “Ole Miss” – for comment on the student’s removal from the fraternity.

“It was easily 10-1 counter-protesters to protesters,” Stacey J Spiehler, who posted the original clip to X, told The Independent. She said the woman, a student, stepped outside the protected barricade and was taking video on her phone.

As the woman approaches the group of male students, chants of “lock her up” can be heard.

“Counter-protesters were throwing things. I saw half a chicken parm sandwich on the ground, a carrot,” Ms Spiehler said. “She was brave, holding her own and had more intelligence and empathy in her little finger than that whole crowd. Whether or not you agree with her, she embodies UM.”

The video surfaced as ongoing pro-Palestinian protests at multiple college campuses across the nation continue over the Israel-Gaza war.

In a statement to The Independent on Friday, a spokesperson for Ole Miss wrote: “Statements were made at the demonstration on our campus Thursday that were offensive and inappropriate.

“We cannot comment specifically about that video, but the university is looking into reports about specific actions. Any actions that violate university policy will be met with appropriate action.”

The video prompted a divided reaction from politicians, with Republican legislator Rep Mike Collins from Georgia, reposting it and stating, “Ole Miss taking care of business.”

Other politicians were quick to criticise the congressman.

“This is a video showing anti-Blackness,” Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner wrote, reposting Mr Collins’s post. “This is a sitting Congressman applauding it.”

Rob Smith, a US veteran of the Iraq War, wrote, “An elected official in the House of Representatives should absolutely not be tweeting out this video with this caption. This stuff is what makes the Republican Party absolutely toxic to the vast majority of Black Americans. This is so not the way.”

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