Racist graffiti found on Tufts campus after Africana Center event

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A cannon on campus, which is traditionally repainted by students, was vandalized with hateful messages as students returned for the fall semester.

Racist graffiti was found on the campus of Tufts University this week, prompting anger among the student body and an official investigation. 

The graffiti was found on and near the Tufts cannon, a replica based on those from the USS Constitution. Over the years, a tradition emerged where students paint over the cannon at night and guard it until daybreak. Those messages traditionally stay until someone else paints over them on a subsequent night. In 2018, thousands of pounds of paint were removed from the cannon. 

Racist graffiti was found at Tufts University recently. – Courtesy image

On Sept. 16, the university’s Africana Center held its annual retreat for first-year students, which culminated in a painting of the cannon. The next morning, students found “messages invoking anti-blackness” defiling their work, the Tufts Pan-Afrikan Alliance said in an Instagram post. 

“The over-painting of the cannon is unacceptable and very clearly an attack on the Black student body,” the organization said.

In addition, there was graffiti that “was potentially anti-Asian,” according to a message sent to the Tufts community from Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Monroe France. 

Images obtained by Boston.com show the words “Asian Invasion” spray-painted on the cannon, around its base, and on a nearby tree. The message “F— U” was also painted on the cannon. 

“When incidents of this kind occur, we all suffer, because our aspiration of being a welcoming community for all is undermined,” France wrote. 

An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the Tufts Department of Public Safety and the Office of Equal Opportunity, according to France’s message. 

“There is still much information that we don’t know about the incident,” France wrote. “If we learn there has been a violation of policy, we will hold individuals accountable. I advise members of the community to refrain from engaging in divisive speculation, of which there has been a lot, about the identity of the party or parties responsible and their motivation.”

The words “Asian invasion” were spray-painted on and near the Tufts cannon. – Courtesy image

The messages of “Asian invasion” were written on the cannon multiple times, according to an Instagram post from Tufts Asian Student Coalition. The message was first found last week, before being found painted again over a painting celebrating the Africana Center’s retreat. The group condemned the “clear anti-Blackness” as well as the use of the “‘Asian invasion’ rhetoric.”

France said he has been in conversation with university leadership, those leading the investigation, and the directors of the Africana and Asian American Student Centers. 

The Tufts Black Student Caucus organized a demonstration Thursday night to “take back the cannon.” It was repainted with messages like “Black @ Tufts” and various members of the student community spoke, according to Instagram posts from the Black Student Union.

In another Instagram post, the Students for Justice in Palestine at Tufts group took issue with France’s message for multiple reasons, ultimately saying that the university was “ignoring the level of harm that has occurred” because this is in its “best interest.” 

“To address this harm would require the university to contend with its history of racism and anti-Blackness, which it has continuously failed to do and refuses to acknowledge,” the group said.


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