SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – An African-American student group at the University of South Carolina was hit with shocking images and hurtful slurs while meeting up on Zoom.
7 News talked to a student who was on that video meet-up. She explained how some uninvited visitors turned the meeting into a racist rant.
“If we were on campus, the spring cookout would’ve been in person,” Toneia Douglas said. “It’s a large gathering that we have at the end of every semester to kind of give people that big push they need to do well during finals week.”
Spartanburg native Toneia Douglas is a junior at the University of South Carolina and a member of the Association of African American Students.
Every year, she and her classmates get together for one last hoorah before school’s out. But, because of the Coronavirus, an online hoorah would have to do.
“We decided to do it virtually so that people could still feel that sense of community, even while they’re at home,” Douglas said.
So, they met up on Zoom.
“Everyone was having a great time, listening to music and talking with each other,” Douglas said.
But, about an hour into the virtual cookout, an unknown user joined.
“It was fine because, just like at our regular cookouts, everyone is welcome,” Douglas said.
Then, several more appeared. Some were wearing black face, while others had swaztikas in the background.
“They were saying racial slurs, using profanity, and calling everyone derogatory terms,” Douglas said.
The group tried removing the unknown users, but couldn’t. Instead, they had to end the zoom meeting altogether.
“At first, it was just very shocking and surprising that anybody would have the audacity to do something like this,” Douglas said. “And, then, it was very hurtful.”
USC’s president released a statement, saying the incident was unacceptable as students “expected that they’d be in a safe, welcoming environment.”
Douglas told 7 News she’s now learned the importance of cyber security, like making sure to password-protect each call and not to post about it on social media.
“I feel like talking about it and making sure people know it’s a possibility, they’ll take those extra precautions to begin with,” she said.
Douglas said resources, like counseling sessions, have been made available for the students who were on the Zoom call and may need it.
According to USC’s president, the college has asked Zoom to investigate the incident.