‘Too many white people in here’: race row at US college

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A viral video showing a black student at the University of Virginia asking white students to leave the campus diversity centre has sparked a debate over race.

“Frankly, there’s just too many white people in here,” the student says in the clip posted on Wednesday.

The incident has divided students and commentators on Twitter.

Some argue that minorities at the predominantly white school should have their own space.

Others said the student was exhibiting “racist intolerance”.

The row has touched a nerve at the institution, which was largely built by slaves, in a state that has struggled to reckon with a legacy of racism.

In response, the UVA administration has said that the centre is “open to all members of the university community”.

The video was posted by conservative group Young America’s Foundation. In the clip, a black student is seen calling for attention before making an announcement.

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“This is a space for people of colour, so just be really cognisant of the space you’re taking up because it does make some of us [people of colour] uncomfortable when we see too many white people in here,” she says.

“Frankly, there’s the whole university for a lot of y’all to be at, and there’s very few spaces for us so keep that in mind,” she says.

A majority of the 16,777 undergraduate students who enrolled at UVA in the 2017-2018 school year were white, while only six percent were black, according to university data.

Media captionOne thing Americans find hard to talk about

“Being a person of colour at a predominantly white institution is exhausting sometimes. The pressure and stress that often comes with being the only Black person in the room can be extremely taxing,” wrote UVA student Charles Snowden on Twitter.

“She does not want to segregate the school,” he wrote, referring to the student in the video. “She just wants a space where she can escape those pressures.”

Renovations to the diversity centre were completed four days before the video was posted, part of a wider UVA effort to “support diverse communities”. In May, UVA President Jim Ryan approved a $500,000 (£380,000) project to fund the centre, as well as spaces for Hispanic, interfaith and LGBTQ communities.

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Twitter post by @csnoww3: Being a person of color at a predominantly white institution is exhausting sometimes. The pressure and stress that often comes with being the only Black person in the room can be extremely taxing. She does not want to segregate the school. She just wants a space where she can... Image Copyright @csnoww3

But Spencer Brown, spokesman for the Young America’s Foundation, said that “treating people differently based on the colour of their skin is wrong”.

The building could not be an inclusive centre “when members of their community push for segregation based on skin colour,” Mr Brown said. “The entirety of the UVA campus is open to everyone.”

The video has been viewed more than 4 million times from the group’s Twitter account, he said.

UVA has been at the frontlines of racial disputes. The campus in Charlottesville, founded by Thomas Jefferson, sits a stone’s throw from Monticello, the third president’s plantation where blacks were enslaved.

Charlottesville was the site of a white supremacist rally in 2017, where clashes with anti-racism demonstrators left a woman dead.

The state of Virginia, once the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, has also been a hotbed of racial friction.

Senior elected officials, including the Democratic governor, the attorney general and a Republican state senator, have all been caught up in race scandals in the past year.

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Image caption

Counter protesters assemble on UVA’s Charlottesville campus, days after the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally