Racist Language Overshadows Black Christian Union Event at Southern Adventist University

On Sabbath evening, February 3, Southern Adventist University’s Black Christian Union (BCU) held its annual BCU Night. Titled “Past. Present. Future.” the event was an opportunity to “celebrate black culture together as one people,” according to the Facebook event description.

Unfortunately, during the celebration, Snapchat user “Southern Stories” (sau_stories) tweeted out a video, using racist language to describe the event:

Just when I think southern can’t get worse like.....what...... pic.twitter.com/tTlbVzVBnG

— King Palm Tree (@DariusB44) February 4, 2018

Those on social media were quick to respond to the video, which as of this writing has been viewed over 25,000 times. Southern’s official student newspaper, the Southern Accent, stated in a tweet that “The Snapchat account ‘Southern Stories’ that posted racial slurs at BCU night was not created by or affiliated with SAU administration. There has been some misinformation about this and want to be clear that it was NOT posted on Southern’s official Snapchat.”

Dr. David Smith, president of SAU, sent the following message to the Southern community on Sunday regarding the incident:

Dear Students and Employees,

Last night I was honored to take part in our annual Black Christian Union (BCU) night and was inspired by the creativity, diversity, and enthusiasm of our student body! This morning, I was sickened to learn that an anonymous person who also attended the BCU event posted highly offensive, racist language on social media regarding the evening. As president of Southern Adventist University, I stand firmly with our students, employees, and Phillip Warfield, our student association president, in denouncing these harmful words and actions.

One of our core values at Southern is to be Christ-centered in every aspect of life on campus, allowing His love in us to influence our behavior, words, and thoughts. Christ’s ministry on earth was one of radical love that transcended earthly divisions; it draws all of us into a community of compassion and equality. Those who hide behind anonymity to spread hate and ignorance toward any person or group are not representative of Southern’s values and have no place in our community.

During our first convocation of the school year, the student body made this pledge: “I will show respect for all members of the university community—their lives, property, and environment. This includes respect for diversity, ethical use of communication technologies, and community service.” All students are expected to honor this pledge.

Students are also expected to report anyone (student, employee, or visitor to our campus) who is engaging in discrimination or harassment, including any based on race or ethnicity. While Southern has no connection with the “Southern Stories” account, we will reach out to Snapchat to request that they will share the identity of the individual who created this offensive post and remove the account which acted in violation of their community guidelines. If you have information regarding the originator of last night’s message, please contact us at president@southern.edu or use the anonymous form located at southern.edu/report.

As the Bible says, “The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45).

Join me in striving to make our campus known for the goodness of our hearts!

David Smith, president

Early Monday morning, Student Association President Phillip Warfield tweeted: “It has been confirmed that the individual who posted this is a known troll on campus that uses his fake platform to stir up hate and controversy. He was expelled and banned from SAU some time ago, but sometimes appears since he lives near the area.”

The Southern Accent plans to discuss this incident of racial hatred in-depth in its next issue, stating, “whether you go to Southern or not, we want to hear from you.” The paper is requesting letters of 150 to 200 words be sent to the editor at accent@southern.edu.

This is not the first time anonymous racists have used social media to attack BCU celebrations at Southern. Just last year, several users on the social media app Yik Yak, which is entirely anonymous, shared racist statements. Screen captures immediately began circulating, being shared hundreds of times on Facebook and Twitter.

When asked for comment on this latest incident, Phillip Warfield provided the following statement:

As SA President, I've established a theme called "This Is Us." When I ran for this position a year ago, this was at the top of my list and the major portion of my platform. As the most diverse university in Tennessee, second-most in the American South, and second-most between Adventist universities, I know that Southern has a peculiar mission.

Established in the Deep South, Southern's demographics and variety of cultural celebrations do not reflect the culture of what's around us. Under my leadership, students have had the opportunity to explore others backgrounds and stories in new ways; for example, I've asked our library to establish a Black History Month media list (with books, articles, films, etc.). I've also asked our Marketing and University Relations team to create banners (focused on Black History Month and This Is Us) that will hang around our campus—the same will be done for very many of the cultures on our campus. At the end of the year, all of this will culminate in a multicultural performance night, the likes of which have not been done before on our campus.

During my time here, I have also alerted administration and deans of incidents when the Confederate flag has been seen on campus. Our President has taken immediate steps to see that that no longer happens on our campus. There are many committees, meetings, and groups that meet on campus to discuss the issues of diversity and inclusion to keep making positive change on campus—these groups are made up of students, faculty, and staff alike.

This incident that happened this past weekend doesn't represent the everyday life on campus, specifically for people of color. I do feel, however, that there are micro-aggressions and frustrations that are not always reported to the people on campus who are truly trying to help. Unfortunately, there is an extreme minority of students who choose to make awful comments, just for the sake of controversy and knowing what Southern has represented in the past. It is also important to note that the video that has been circulating social media was not done by a Southern student. There are people at Southern who are indoctrinated with a very specific approach on handling such issues. Some of them don’t know that they’re being offensive or discriminatory. It’s important to know that this is a walk and we have to do this together. It takes time.

As of this writing, the Snapchat account “Southern Stories” is still active.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8556

It is inevitable that whenever something good is being attempted there will be active detractors. I hope Southern pushes forward and doesn’t allow crass nay-sayers to take over the dialogue surrounding the important topic of race relations in the church.


People who bathe in their own ignorance and prejudice tend to splash all who come in contact with them. Their happiness seems to be wrapped in such intolerance that they expect everyone (people who look like them) to embrace their negative viewpoints.

Black History Month is essential to remind us of what was, is and hopefully what can be realized based on that eloquent sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. given July 4, 1965 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia. His American Dream for this country should never be allowed to fade, and the contributions of black men and women need to be remembered and celebrated.



Honestly, I don’t understand why the different ethnic groups feel the need to have a nation wide special attention given to them year after year after year. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King have already come true because the freedoms are for all now. Why keep opening up a grave? As far as I am concerned there is only one race, the human race. I prefer to remain non-biased, non-prejudice, and fair to all with the same amount of fairness.

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Why take offense because one Jack Ass is uncouth? In the army I was called many names among which were preacher and deacon. So any new member of the company, I would introduce myself as Tom but better known as the deacon. We are all sinners in need of Grace. So let us show a little even to the red necks.


It’s hard to admit, but in the hierarchy of sins, racism may be held in the “unforgivable” label, thus no grace permitted, desired, allowed. Not at all suggesting racism is not wrong (it is no less wrong than sexism, ageism, etc)-am suggesting categorizing it as unforgivable is not right. Let us not lose “the good fight” because we confused someone or something “offensive” as the crucifiable enemy, which essentially then venerates “offendability”. Hypersensitive offendability becomes inevitable consequence-when this leads to someone who is offended by “offenders” skin color, we have done a perfect 180. Talk about a contortious Torus bubble rabbit hole. Shall we begin with prophylactic removal of anything that might be construed as offensive to a race-selected group?


I am surmising you are white.


I appreciate the responses from leadership–the university’s president and the student president. With regard to the overt racism, sometimes good things come from bad. The perp’s actions undoubtedly did more harm than good to his/her cause.

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Because even when cloistered in a Seventh-day Adventist institution people can still hear words of oppression. The words of Dr. King give courage and strength to the targets of that oppression. No one opens a grave to hear a good word. The good word abides with us.

Would the administration have had an equivalent response had the epithet used been “faggot” ?? If not, why not?

Has the perpetrator of this vicious slur been traced? If so, was he/she a product of Adventist elementary and Adventist academy schooling?

If so this is an indictment of our Adventist educational system!

Don’t correct me, because I’m not wrong.

To be a ‘Christian’ means to ‘be found in Him’ (Christ, Philippians 3:8-9) not in ‘Union’ with any merely human race, or sex, or . . . .

Because, ‘in Christ’ “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one (in ‘union’, in ‘one-ion’) in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Because, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:27 – not ‘put on’ merely sinful ‘flesh’ . . . of any color, or sex, or lack of either –
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26

Is our Christian hope, then, to ‘put on’ our flesh ? . . . or to ‘put on Christ’ ?

If it is ‘Christian’ to celebrate my DNA, my specific ‘race’ . . .
then it is ‘Christian’ to celebrate my DNA, my specific ‘sex’. . .

Which way will ‘SDA’ ‘Christians’ have it ?:

Celebrate DNA-race domination-and-oppression, and DNA-sex domination-and-oppression . . . ?

Or, be found ‘in Christ’, ‘born again’ of the Divine Spirit, freely ordaining ‘all’ sexes, and ‘all’ of the varied races because DNA-‘flesh’ no longer matters to us Adventists ?

‘If I be lifted up from the Earth, I will draw all to me.’ ~ Christ, our Healer in John 12:32
We need to look up, and rise up toward Heaven, SDA people. . . all of us !!!
We have set our sights far, far too low, for far, far too long !!!
Our healing redemption is near, not far off !
But it is UP AND FORWARD, not down and backward !

The reason that Women’s Ordination is right,
is because obsession with any mere flesh-trait(s) is wrong in right Christianity.

The reason that ‘Black’ Ordination of any sex is right,
is because obsession with any mere flesh-trait(s) is wrong in right Christianity.

How, then can any ‘Christian’ – ‘of Christ’, ‘like Christ’ – Adventist justify celebrating their mere flesh,
and risk being sexist, or racist, or . . . unlike Christ ?

The ‘Law’ and the ‘Flesh’ go together.
(see Romans 7, ‘Law’ causes death through weak ‘flesh’.)

The ‘Gospel’ and the ‘Spirit of His Son’ (Galatians 4:6) go together.
(‘It is the Spirit that produces life, not the Flesh.’ ~ Christ, in John 6:63)

“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly;
neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly;
and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter;
whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28-29

Choose you this day whom you will serve ! . . .
But, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord !” Joshua 24:15

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Thanks, @sherlock1d.

You said:

In response:

“The different ethnic groups” probably “feel the need to have a nation wide special attention given to them year after year after year” because they simply don’t agree with you.

In other words, from your position, and your perspective, your statement, above, is true. I know this, because you begin it with the word, “Honestly….”

So, to you, is this one true (which you begin with the words, “As far as I am concerned…”):

From the POV and perspective of “the different ethnic groups,” however, these—yours—are not true statements.

(You’ll allow for this, I’m sure, because you also open this with the words, “I don’t understand why…,” which pleads ignorance of a kind.)

Indeed, to many in some of “the different ethnic groups,” your statements are as untrue as they, to you, are true. Isn’t this amazing?

Keep in mind: I’m not saying that your statements are true, or untrue, here. I’m merely saying that you, apparently, have reached a conclusion that they are true. On that basis, you appear to prescribe a different set of behaviors for “the different ethnic groups” than the ones you deride; e.g., having “a nation wide special attention given to them year after year after year.” You appear to suggest they should not do this.

To “the different ethnic groups,” though, what you describe as true, to them, is false; utterly unreal and non-existent. It is not what they see, and live.

You are clearly a reasonable person. Surely,then, you can agree that if “the different ethnic groups” are reaching different conclusions than you are about what is real, then they should, and must, take different actions.

That would only be logical, correct?

Thanks, @tjzwemer.

You said:

In response:

  1. What would be an appropriate number of “uncouth jackasses” before one takes offense, and why?

  2. You’re not proposing that the words “preacher” and “deacon” are as offensive as the oft-called “n-word,” are you? Because, unless that is what you’re doing, your analogy simply does not carry.

Thanks, @Timo.

You said:

In response:

This is so interesting, because I’ve never seen anyone who, accused of racism, was not “forgiven”; not, at least, if they were white, and their actions were hostile to non-white people.

In 2006, Michael Richards—“Kramer” of Seinfeld—was involved in an incident that, reasonable people would think, should have permanently expelled him from the business of entertainment.

But when you look at the 46 credits on his IMDB page, five of them are after 2006. One entry represents three episodes of TV series work, while another points to twelve.

I doubt any white person can evade the “forgiveness” for which you call…and the first proof of this an almost simultaneous-with-the-act call for forgiveness, such as the one you announce, here.

Thanks, @cherryashlock.

You said:

And, by so doing, prove that brevity is still the soul of wit.



This entire incident is a sad reminder of how quickly racial tension can wreak havoc. But the fact is that even if Southern Adventist U had made spectacular progress, it needs to come to grips with the reality that it benefited for many years from the shameful “white flight” from AUC. This tragic trend continues, and it’s effects will haunt North American Adventism for many years to come.

A dramatic shift has hugely weakened the Church in the Northeast, because the center of gravity has relentlessly moved South, largely thanks to the “Triple
Whammy” of SAU, Oakwood and low cost of living siphoning off a large portion of the talent of the Atlantic Union Conference just when we need the work to be redoubled in the North. Until and unless the Adventists of the East put aside differences and fears and rally around our local institutions of learning and, in particular, ensure AUC’s survival and it’s thriving future, our work will be crippled where it is most needed – here at the Church’s birthplace.

So is it “white flight” or the low cost of living that is siphoning off a large portion of the talent of the Atlantic Union Conference? The student body of SAU is less than 50% of any single race including Caucasian and reflects the racial diversity of the church so don’t accuse SAU of benefiting from white flight. The demise of AUC is a bellwether of Adventist higher education in general. The model of Brigham Young University wherein the Mormons concentrate all of their education dollars into one institution of higher learning would be difficult for Adventists to adopt but if possible would ensure the future of Adventist higher education.