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In another case, several cadets won the school’s Halloween costume contest in 2017 by dressing up as President Trump’s proposed border wall and writing racial slurs on their costume. Far from punishing the students, the commandant in charge of cadets posed for a photo with them.
Kaleb Tucker, another 2020 graduate, said that as a Black cadet, it was painful to hear racist comments and to have to salute the statue of Jackson. Many of his Black friends grew disheartened and transferred out of V.M.I., he said. Others in the student body, which is about 8 percent Black, “kind of became numb to everything that was going on,” he said.
Over the summer, during nationwide protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, Mr. Tucker started an online petition to remove the Jackson statue. “We can learn about the history, but we don’t need to celebrate it,” he said. “You go to Germany, I don’t think you’ll see statues of Hitler.”
A number of other alumni also started calling on the college to break with its Confederate past. General Peay announced efforts to update some of the school’s traditions, but he said in a letter that he would not rename buildings that honor Confederates and that the statue would remain, calling Jackson a “staunch Christian” and a “military genius.”
The Washington Post reported this month that Black students at the college continued to “endure relentless racism” and have been subjected to mock lynchings and other abuse.
In response, Governor Northam, who graduated from the institute in 1981, said last week that he was ordering an independent investigation, saying he had “deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at V.M.I.
John Boland, the president of the school’s trustees, known as the Board of Visitors, wrote in a letter to the governor that “systemic racism does not exist here and a fair and independent review will find that to be true.” Mr. Boland praised General Peay in a statement on Monday and said the board accepted the general’s resignation “with deep regret.”