'It has the possibility to be a domino effect': VMI student speaks on alleged racism culture investigation

Posted at 10:57 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 23:22:42-04

HAMPTON, Va. - “Now is the time everyone is speaking up,” said Kaleb Tucker.

Speaking up is something Tucker couldn’t do when he attended Virginia Military Institute.

“Plenty of times you see things of racism happen. You see these examples, and it's swept under the rug and nothing is done,” Tucker adds.

After a call to investigate a culture of "ongoing structural racism" at the college by Governor Ralph Northam, who is a VMI graduate, and other state leaders, retired military General Binford Peay III is stepping down as the school superintendent of 17 years.

General Peay submitted this letterto school’s the board of visitors.

“The surprise comes from the fact that something is actually being done," said Tucker.

The Hampton native graduated in May with an applied mathematics degree.

He was a student athlete. When he wasn’t in the classroom, he was on the field.

“Most Black people that go to VMI are there for sports,” he adds.

Another thing he says Black people at the college have in common are similar race stories.

“I myself have seen myself being called the N-word multiple times by anonymous people on an anonymous app by VMI students,” said Tucker.

Tucker never addressed his concerns to leaders due to fear of punishment.

“Ten demerits, six weeks on confinements, etc. - I believe that’s what Will Bunton was facing,” he adds.

William Bunton is a current senior from Portsmouth and a football player who was punished for refusing to attend Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the school back in September.

“There is a lot worse things that can happen than just getting some confinement to demerits. There are people who fought long before me who have given their lives and went to jail,” said Bunton.

He says he will not be silenced and will continue to use his voice to fight for equity on campus - not just for African Americans, but for women as well.

“If I were to be fighting only for Black lives or Black rights, then I would be the same type of person I would be fighting against if I were a different race," Bunton adds.

He says what he would like to see next is the removal of statues and names of buildings with Confederate ties.

“What some people call history, some people see it as demeaning,” he adds.

Both Bunton and Tucker say they wish the best for General Peay, but they say his resignation is a start towards change.

“It has the possibility to be a domino effect,” said Tucker.

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