VMI Cadets, Roiled by Accusations of Racism on Campus, Respond by….Being Racist on Social Media

A statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson stands behind canons at the entrance to the barracks at Virginia Military Institute Wednesday July 15, 2020, in Lexington, Va.
A statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson stands behind canons at the entrance to the barracks at Virginia Military Institute Wednesday July 15, 2020, in Lexington, Va.
Photo: Steve Helber (AP)

Allegations about a racist, sexist culture at the Virginia Military Institute, the oldest state-funded military academy in the country, are certainly not new—particularly for a school that has such unapologetically close ties to the Confederacy. But a series of reports about racism at the school, followed by a call for an independent investigation into VMI from top Virginia leadership and the resignation of its superintendent have roiled the campus.

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And, for better or worse, some of the cadets themselves are putting the receipts on full display.

In comments complaining about divisiveness, VMI cadets using an anonymous chat app vociferously confirmed the racist harassment Black cadets and alumni say is endemic to the school. A new report from the Washington Post highlights some of the recent comments made on Jodel (pronounced “Yodel”) which appear to cast blame for VMI’s institutional problems at everything except VMI.

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“I’m sorry but to the cadets [who] reported to the Washington Post you are the reason we are more divided. You decide to be a professional victim and bitch and complain,” one Jodeler posted. “Someone is making a racist joke. GET OVER IT. Comedians can make them. Why can’t I. Everyday in Crozet”—VMI’s dining hall—“black cadet[s] separate yourselves by sitting in the corner of crozet and sometimes acting foolish.”

More from the Post:

At least one cadet blamed members of Promaji—the school’s multicultural club—for aiding The Post and pretended to confuse the name of the mostly Black organization with the name of a popular children’s book and movie series set in a jungle.

“Roommate: how do I join the jumanji club. Us: I think you mean the promaji club,” one Jodeler posted.

“Jumanji>promaji,” a second person replied.

...One cadet fumed over the weekend at the sight of three Black football players apparently dressed inappropriately. “I can’t correct s—-ty black football rats without being racist [f]or targeting them. . . . Guess they can live on knowing [t]he entire corps hates them and their class hates them,” the cadet wrote. “If they were good enough to get into another school for football, they wouldn’t be here.”

Some even called out state Del. Jennifer Carroll, a Black VMI grad and Democrat running for governor, for suggesting that cadets found guilty of being racist should be expelled from the school, the Post writes.

“Foy said she wants to add ‘racist’ sentiments to the honor code. . . . talk about degradation of the institute. . . . racism is bad but has nothing to do with personal honor,” one person wrote.

“[The honor code] is racist because it discriminates against races who are more likely to lie, cheat or steal,” a second Jodeler replied. “By them saying it’s racist they are admitting that there are some races who are more likely to do those.”

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Jodel is so heavily used among cadets it is referenced in VMI’s student handbook, known as The Blue Book, which advises students not to target others on Jodel and other social media apps. Other rule books, including General Orders and the school’s White Book, which outlines VMI’s internal judicial process, warn that those who violate VMI’s social media rules “will be sanctioned to the fullest extent appropriate.”

Not surprisingly, the follow-up Washington Post report on Jodel prompted another round of heated discussions on the app, which is free and easily accessible to those outside of VMI. The app sorts people according to their location, but it’s easy to drop in and see what users at any given site are talking about. For Lexington, Va., VMI cadets comprise a large portion of messages on the Jodel app, though not all Jodelers in this area attend the school.

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In the hours following the Post’s report, The Root found a number of Jodel users tried to rally VMI cadets to unite, with moderators and other Jodelers cautioning app users that their comments were public and could be taken to represent the school.

“Make smart choices Jodel. You represent VMI whether you go here or not,” wrote one moderator.

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Still, as of early Tuesday afternoon, many of the “loudest” posts on the app were ones lambasting the Post and reporter Ian Shapira, who broke the VMI Jodel story. But one of the most commented-on posts on the app called out a Black senior cadet, Will Bunton, for speaking to the Post, accusing the VMI student of lying.

“For lying, you best get rolled,” the user wrote. “But nope, that’d be racist wouldn’t it.”

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Illustration for article titled VMI Cadets, Roiled by Accusations of Racism on Campus, Respond by….Being Racist on Social Media
Screenshot: Jodel

In a subsequent thread, users misrepresented Bunton’s comments to the Post. Bunton, a football player for VMI, said the term “permits,” used to describe scholarship athletes, had “effectively become a proxy for the n-word,” Shapira wrote. Black cadets comprise just 8 percent of students at VMI, and a substantial number attend the school on athletic scholarships.

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Despite the warnings to “chill,” some Jodelers still attempted to dismiss accusations of racism in clumsy, self-defeating ways.

“Ian, if we are a racist institution then why are most of us in favor of General [Darren] McDew”—a Black retired Air Force general—“as possibly the new superintendent,” wrote one user, invoking the classic “you can’t be a racist if you like literally one Black person” argument.

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Another wrote, “Because permit is the equivalent of the n-word I will now be referred to as your ‘perma’ no hard t.”

Staff writer, The Root.

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DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo

racism is bad but has nothing to do with personal honor

I know kids are dumb, but this is something special.