CASPER, Wyoming (AP) — An investigation was launched in Wyoming after a virtual Black history event hosted by the University of Wyoming’s Black Studies Center was interrupted with racist slurs and pornographic images, authorities said.
The university hosted a panel discussion Monday on Zoom about the film “Black Wall Street: Before they Die!” which according to the event description, “explores the death of Black Wall Street from the survivors’ point of view,” the Casper Star-Tribune reported Wednesday.
The university said about 30 minutes into the discussion, a pornographic image and a racial slur appeared on the screen followed by an allegedly synthetic voice shouting racist phrases like “KFC and watermelon,” “porch monkey” among other epithets.
The University of Wyoming has condemned the acts and said it is working with local and federal law enforcement to determine the person or persons responsible.
“The University of Wyoming unequivocally condemns this behavior. The First Amendment may allow expression that is reprehensible, but we have a responsibility to answer it,” the university said in a statement. “Make no mistake, the words and images to which the Zoom discussion participants were subjected are unacceptable and absolutely contrary to the values of our university.”
Several of the event’s participants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“There is nothing like real-time,” Black Studies Center Director Frederick Douglass Dixon said after the first image appeared. “If you understand what we have been doing at the Black Studies Center is dealing with this directly, we don’t back down.”
University spokesman Chad Baldwin said university President Ed Seidel learned of the incident Tuesday and law enforcement became “immediately” involved. An investigation by the IT department revealed the interruption came from computer servers in other countries and one state on the East Coast, officials said.
“We’re looking into this further,” the university said. “Nevertheless, Monday’s unfortunate incident demonstrates that, as a society, we can and must do better.”