Controversial photo sparked campus-wide outrage
by Annie Muscat
On Monday, March 12 at 1 pm, a relatively small but impassioned group of Fordham students and faculty assembled in front of the Cunniffe fountain to stand against white supremacy at the university. Students held posters, chanted, and few expressed their frustration into a megaphone. Some signs read “Zero Tolerance for White Supremacy: Neo-Nazis Must Be Held Accountable” and “Racism is a Social Sin” in bold, confrontational letters.
The protest was organized by Fordham Students United (@fustudentsunite), which advocates for social justice by raising awareness about pervasive issues on campus that disadvantage marginalized people. The anti-white supremacy demonstration occurred in direct response to the recent surfacing of a photo depicting Fordham students posing around a Kekistan flag, which emerged as a white nationalist meme and has been flown alongside the Nazi war banner at neo-Nazi gatherings.
Not only did the picture itself incite distress, but Fordham administration’s negligence to condemn the students also exacerbated tensions. Fordham Students United shared the uncensored photo along with a lengthy caption on Facebook, posing the question: “How can minorities feel safe on campus when white nationalist groups empowered by militarism and state violence are actively harming POC, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, etc.?”. The post garnered substantial attention with over 1,300 comments, ranging from stark disapproval to finding humor in the action.
Two of the pictured students are members of Fordham’s College Republicans, who last semester, engaged in a campaign at Rodrigue’s Coffee House, during which students wearing Make America Great Again hats were accused of violating the coffee house’s safe space policy. The altercation between the students and Rod’s co-president was filmed and widely circulated, even being featured on Fox News. Consequently, the Rod’s co-president and the coffee house in general received violent threats from across the nation. It was later found that the event was instigated by members of Fordham’s College Republicans as a ploy to defame the apparent left-leaning coffee house.
During Monday’s demonstration, fliers were distributed to passersby, exhibiting the image of the Fordham students with the Kekistan flag and outlining the demonstration’s purpose and concerns. At its peak, the demonstration included around 30 participants; yet they made up for their modest size in sound. Enthusiastic chants of “Black Students Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace” echoed in between mostly impromptu speeches delivered by students and faculty.
Students walking by responded to the protest in various ways. Some yelled out words of encouragement, while others ignored or even sneered at the group.
“I think [the reactions were] pretty exemplary of the typical Fordham apathy I see,” commented protestor Claire Del Sorbo (FCRH ’19), “people just aren’t invested enough in how their school is treating students of color and students who speak out against the university.”
The demonstration came to an end after a little over an hour. The participants slowly dispersed, but not before joining hands and reciting Black Liberationist Assata Shakur’s call to action. While this specific protest may have been confined to one hour on a chilly Monday in March, Fordham Students United and others have made it clear that the fight against racism at Fordham is far from over.