Around 40 or 50 students from the University of Tennessee showed up Tuesday night to the Volunteers’ men’s basketball game against Mississippi State, and protested how the school handled, or didn’t handle, a recent blackface photo involving four people all believed to be UT students.
The protestors dressed in black, sat behind Tennessee’s basket, sat and raised their fists during the national anthem, and then filed out of the game early in the second half. According to a report from the Knoxville News Sentinel, which has photos of the demonstration, the protesting students chanted throughout the first half of the game:
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, racism has got to go.”
“No justice, no peace, no racist, UT.”
“What do we want? Expulsion! When do we want it? Now!”
“Which side are you on, UT? Which side are you on?”
The students’ action came a week after the racist photo made the rounds, and just a day after Vice Chancellor for Student Life Vincent Carilli held a meeting with students in which he said the university likely couldn’t expel the student or students responsible. “We would be hard-pressed to expel a student for expressing their First Amendment rights,” he said.
The image showed two of the four people wearing what appear to be charcoal face masks, with the caption: “We for racial equality boys. Bout to get this free college now that I’m black let’s gooooo #blacklivesmatter.”
The university issued a statement calling the photo “repulsive”:
Earlier today, the university was made aware of a screengrab of a Snapchat photo that included four individuals we believe to be our students. Two of them were in blackface. The image is repulsive and the caption abhorrent. The racism displayed in this image does not represent the behavior we expect of students or our Volunteer values. The Bias Education Response Team—in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students—has been made aware of the situation and the university is determining how to handle this incident. Federal law prohibits the university from sharing how the university handles matters with individual students.
Justin Hill, one of the students who demonstrated on campus, spoke with WATE about his reason for participating:
“I’m angry. I’m really mad that I feel my voice doesn’t matter. The fact that I feel like the voices of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters do not matter. I’m sick and tired of feeling like anything related to racism or homophobia or whatever, people get away with it,” Hill said.