William Jones, the president of Bethany College, a small liberal arts college in Lindsborg, KS, has played an instrumental role in the school’s efforts to reach out into the local community and recruit more students of color. That might seem like a good thing to most people, but Jones has recently become the target of a series of racist, hateful messages and threats from a group of people looking to “make Lindsborg white again.”
On Friday, Jones penned a lengthy Facebook post describing how the Bethany College student body had been coping with a recent incident involving chalk outlines of dead bodies that had been drawn along with the message “rest in peace.”
“What do you do when a white supremacist writes racist and hateful messages directed at your children and at the students you work to serve,” Jones asked. “Seriously, what should a person do who desires to follow Christ?”
According to Jones, a few days after the writing appeared on campus, he began receiving phone calls from a man claiming to have been involved in their drawing. The drawings, the man said, were specifically meant for Jones because two of his (adopted) children happen to be biracial.
“A man called my office to tell me that messages like the outline of a dead body and ‘make Lindsborg white again’ were directed at my family–the love of my life and my sweet children, ages seven to 14 years old,” Jones wrote. “Let it sink into your mind and heart. Dead body outline. Children. Hate. As a parent, how would you feel?”
A week later, the man called again, this time threatening to hurt Bethany by rallying like-minded alumni to refrain from giving back to the college, something that the school cannot afford right now due to it being on probation with the Higher Learning Commission for financial instability. This time, though, the man left a name and phone number that Jones used to identify him and the organization he was affiliated with, and to learn that he’d been involved in other bigoted protests in the past.
While the bigoted messages undoubtedly hurt some of Bethany College’s students, the incident lines up with the recent trend of disgruntled white community members lashing out at people of color on campus. Last week, black students from both Savannah State University and Georgia Southern University reported that cheerleaders were harassed with racial epithets and bottles at a football game. Similarly, two black students at American University in Washington, DC, said last week that they had had rotten bananas thrown at them.
Now, at Bethany College, campus police are patrolling more regularly and staff has been made aware of who the man is.
“As a community member, I hope you will join me. Please pray for my children and wife,” Jones wrote. “Please pray for Bethany College and for protection against those who would hurt us. Please pray that our wonderful town, Lindsborg, doesn’t allow the hate of a couple of people to infect our community.”