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Virginia Military Institute superintendent resigns over allegations of systemic racism

Virginia Military Institute (Facebook)

The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, resigned Monday after reports of ongoing systemic racism at the military college.

“General Peay has served VMI as superintendent exceptionally well for more than 17 years,” the board of visitors said in a statement. “General Peay is a great American, patriot, and hero. He has profoundly changed our school for the better in all respects.”

Peay, 80, resigned just days after the Washington Post documented “relentless racism” suffered by the Black cadets at the state-sponsored school.

“It has been the honor of my life to be the Superintendent of VMI for over seventeen years,” the retired four-star general wrote in a public resignation letter. “I always have and always will love the Institute, all of our cadets, alumni and the entire VMI family.”

But, Peay wrote, Gov. Ralph Northam and other state politicians had “lost confidence in my leadership” and “desired my resignation.”

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One 2019 graduate, Keniya Lee, told the Post that a professor “reminisced” about her father’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Another Black student claimed a white classmate told him he was going to “lynch” him and use his “dead corpse as a punching bag.”

At the time, Peay said any allegation of racism or discrimination would be “investigated and appropriately punished, if substantiated.”

Northam, who graduated from VMI in 1981, launched a formal investigation and third-party review in an order signed by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring and the chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

“Black cadets at VMI have long faced repeated instances of racism on campus, including horrifying new revelations of threats about lynching, vicious attacks on social media, and even a professor who spoke fondly of her family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan — to say nothing of inconsistent application of the Institute’s Honor Code,” the letter read.

“In addition, VMI cadets continue to be educated in a physical environment that honors the Confederacy and celebrates an inaccurate and dangerous ‘Lost Cause’ version of Virginia’s history. It is long past time to consign these relics to the dustbin of history.”

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(c) 2020 New York Daily News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.