Bomb Threats Made To HBCUs on First Day of Black History Month

Over a dozen historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) across the U.S. were forced to go into lockdown as a result of racially motivated bomb threats made on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Tuesday was the first day of Black History Month, a month-long observance of Black achievement and excellence throughout history. The timing of the threats and the schools they were directed at has led authorities to label the incidents as hate crimes intended to racially terrorize Black students.

Nina Anderson, Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity, described the threats as “frightening” and “unsettling,” noting that these kinds of intimidation tactics have long been used throughout history to terrorize communities of color.

HBCU’s have long been the target of white supremacist attacks because they allow students of color to receive a transformative education, giving them opportunities for success and equality that they had previously been denied. Still, the ongoing presence of racially motivated threats and attacks in 2022 is alarming and perhaps indicative that society has not made as much progress toward equality as previously thought.

“The threats are a reminder that the U.S. has not reached a place of racial harmony and that we are still quite a way from being there,” explained Anderson.

“When they think about race and trying to close the gaps, a lot of people think about this endless forward progress. When you actually look throughout history, it’s been more of a push a little forward, get a little backlash,” explained Jennifer McGovern, Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology. “If anything, an intense backlash is usually a sign that forward progress indeed is working because people are feeling threatened by that progress or feeling like their world has changed. When we see those reactions, which I’m not saying are good, they are a backlash to the progress being made.”

Rather than viewing these racially motivated hate crimes as steps in the wrong direction, many believe that they are simply backlash to steps being made toward equality. Although many view these incidents as deplorable, what they represent may be indicative of society’s progress as a whole. For example, the prevalence of the Black Lives Matter movement presented threats to white supremacists, as did the election of Kamala Harris, a Black and Indian woman, as Vice President of the United States. Notably, Harris is the first graduate of an HBCU to hold this position. Such occurrences of Black excellence may serve as catalysts for an increase in racial hate crimes, as seen with the recent bomb threats made to various HBCU’s.

Still, regardless of what they represent, many activists believe it is important that these incidents are properly denounced and those involved face the appropriate legal repercussions. “If people see that there are real consequences to creating this type of harm, that’s certainly helpful in going a long way to prevent this,” said McGovern.

Although no explosives were found at any of the targeted colleges or universities, the FBI is still investigating the threats and has identified six juveniles and one neo-Nazi group as persons of interest. The threats ultimately remained verbal and did not become physical in nature, but they are still being classified as hate crimes and are thus punishable in the court of law. As such, it is important that those involved are punished accordingly.

“Ideally, we want colleges and universities to feel safe for all sorts of people, and so one of the things that I think is really important about stopping these problems at their core is to think about how that goes beyond any one university,” said McGovern. “As long as there’s still a world that has racist policies that give some people advantages and other people disadvantages, there’s going to be reasons for tension. When we live in a system like that, a direct byproduct is hate. As much as we’ve made progress, we still have a lot of that stuff festering in our society.”

McGovern emphasized the importance of working within college and university campuses to offer classes that teach students about history and help them understand different viewpoints.

Anderson described how this is being implemented at Monmouth University, especially in celebration of Black History Month. “The Intercultural Center has a full calendar of events lined up. With a great variety of activities and events, I am sure that everyone can find some way to participate.”

“Black History Month highlights Black growth, culture, and history, even when it should be everyday,” said Beverly Gopre, President of Monmouth University’s Black Student Union. “It is a period of time where students of color are able to talk about Black history and achievements, and are able to celebrate past and ongoing accomplishments.”

Beyond action at the campus-level, Anderson noted that the voices of marginalized populations must be heard in order to truly understand where the problems lie and how to solve them. “People need to treat each other with respect and caring for each other as humans,” she said.

“We have to work on ourselves and expand our own thinking of other people’s humanity,” added McGovern. “It’s important to work for change at the system and policy level outside of the University and to prepare students to see and want to work for those things.”