Taylor Dumpson: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Taylor Dumpson, American University racial incident, American University racism, banana noose

Taylor Dumpson. (Facebook/Taylor Dumpson)

On the same day that Taylor Dumpson began her tenure as the first black woman president of the American University Student Government, the university was the scene of racist messages and signs, including bananas in nooses. Days later, police rushed to protect Dumpson after officials saw an online post written by a “white supremacist.”

The racist messages and the bananas appeared to be directed towards Alpha Kappa Alpha, the predominantly black sorority Dumpson is a member of. NBC News reports that one message written on a banana read “Harambe bait,” a reference to the gorilla killed at Cincinnati zoo in 2016. Another message read “AKA Free.”

After images of the bananas circulated on social media, American University President Dr. Neil Kerwin called them a “crude and racially insensitive act of bigotry.”

Here’s what you need to know about Dumpson.


1. The Bananas Were Marked With Racial Messages, Including ‘Harambe Bait’

The bananas were found on campus with racist messages written on them. One had the words “Harambe bait” written on it. This is a reference to Harambe the Gorilla, who was killed in a Cincinnati zoo after a young boy fell into its enclosure. The gorilla’s death became a popular online meme, but as Fusion noted in September, the meme has taken on racist connotations.

Another banana had “AKA Free” written on it. This is a reference to Alpha Kappa Alpha, a predominantly black sorority. Dumpson is also a member of the sorority.

“Racially charged acts of bigotry are done to instill fear and inflict pain in our community—especially at stressful times, such as at the end of the term,” President Dr. Neil Kerwin said in a statement. He continued:

“I regret this happened, apologize to everyone offended, and state emphatically that this incident does not reflect what American University truly is. While this incident targeted AU’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and occurred after the first black woman and AKA member was sworn in as the Student Government president—our entire university community has been adversely affected by this cowardly, despicable act.”

On May 4, NBC Washington reported that police rushed to protect Thompson after they saw an online post “authored by a white supremacist.”

On May 3, The New York Times reported that the FBI is helping out with the investigation.


2. Dumpson Asked the Student Body to ‘Unite in Solidarity’ With Those Impacted by the Incident

Sleepy College Town"Sleepy College Town" debuted during American University Night at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to an audience of 38,000 people. The video encapsulates what it means to be a member of the AU community, and showcases just a few of AU's successful students, faculty, and alumni. Among the notable alumni featured in the video are: WUSA-CBS9's Derek McGinty '81, FOX News Channel's Alisyn Camerota '88, local entrepreneur Constantine Stavropoulos '87, as well as former chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush and current executive in residence Anita McBride, an alumna of the Washington Semester program. "Sleepy College Town" was written and produced by the American University Office of Communications and Marketing, with help from American University alumni, staff, faculty, and students. Cuba and India footage is courtesy of: "Through Their Eyes" and AU Abroad, the university's study abroad program. Learn more about the individuals featured in the video at http://bit.ly/gakc2J. Lean more about AU night at Nationals Park at http://bit.ly/16lS14a.2013-08-31T01:40:41.000Z

Dumpson didn’t expect her tenure as AUSG president to begin this way. The racist incident was the main topic of her first statement to the student body. She wrote:

It is disheartening and immensely frustrating that we are still dealing with this issue after recent conversations, dialogues, and town halls surrounding race relations on campus. But this is exactly why we need to do more than just have conversations but move in a direction towards more tangible solutions to prevent incidents like these from occurring in the future.

Later, Dumpson quoted Frederick Douglass and asked that the student body “unite in solidarity with those impacted.”

As the first black woman AUSG president, I implore all of us to unite in solidarity with those impacted by this situation and we must remember that “if there is no struggle, there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass. We must use this time to reflect on what we value as a community and we must show those in the community that bigotry, hate, and racism cannot and will not be tolerated.

The Eagle, AU’s student newspaper, reports that school Public Safety is investigating the incident. The paper notes that it was Quinn Dunlea, a senior, who discovered the bananas at a shuttle bus stop with her friend. They reported it to Public Safety.

“I was horrified. It’s such ugliness and hatred on our campus.” Dunlea’s friend, Dan Perry, told The Eagle. “A part of me hoped it would not be what we thought it was… I was blown away by the fact that these people actually go to our school.”


3. Dumpson Grew Up in Maryland & Is the Daughter of a Movie Producer

14 Tips for First Years: A Survival Guide – 2016 EDITIONWelcome Class of 2020! AU students, faculty, and staff have some tips to help you make the most of your time here on campus.2016-08-24T17:55:42.000Z

Dumpson grew up in Salisburty, Maryland, notes an American University profile about her. Her mother is an executive vice president at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Her father is Jeffrey Dumpson, an executive movie producer. He’s worked on four films so far – The Man in 3B, The Preacher’s Son and the upcoming The Choir Director and No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Dumpson describes Salisbury as having “a very small town feel. Everyone knew everyone. I’ve had family members in that town for seven generations.” She said AU’s “big city vibe, small town feel” attracted her to the university. She also played on the lacrosse team during her freshman year.


4. Dumpson Considered Transferring After the 2015 AU Yik Yak Incident

Black Students Harassed With Bananas On CampusThe #TheRealAU movement seeks to highlight racism on college campuses. Grace Baldridge, Hasan Piker, and Jason L. Carter, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below. https://www.tytnetwork.com/join “Students at American University in Washington D.C. have condemned the school over what they said was an inadequate response to racially-charged incidents on campus this month. In one case, a rotting banana was left at the door of a black student’s dorm room. In addition, someone drew a penis on a whiteboard attached to her door. “I wouldn’t let people drive me out,” Neah Gray, the freshman who found the banana, told the newspaper. “But it’s kind of sad that this kind of thing still happens.” In another incident, someone threw a rotten banana at a black student, according to the American University Black Student Alliance. The organization said that the actions were part of a pattern of behavior at the university; last year, racist epithets were written on the dorm doors of black students. The university described one of the incidents as “not characterized as bias related,” and announced that “conduct charges” were taking place through the “Student Conduct process.” It was not clear which incident the university was referring to.” Read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/american-university-racism-banana_us_57df5313e4b08cb1409679e8?section=& Hosts: Grace Baldridge, Hasan Piker, Jason L. Carter Cast: Grace Baldridge, Hasan Piker, Jason L. Carter *** The Largest Online News Show in the World. Hosted by Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian. LIVE STREAMING weekdays 6-8pm ET. http://www.tytnetwork.com/live Young Turk (n), 1. Young progressive or insurgent member of an institution, movement, or political party. 2. Young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations. (American Heritage Dictionary) Download audio and video of the full two hour show on-demand + the members-only post game show by becoming a member at http://www.tytnetwork.com/join/. Your membership supports the day to day operations and is vital for our continued success and growth. Get The Young Turks Mobile App Today! Download the iOS version here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-young-turks/id412793195?ls=1&mt=8 Download the Android version here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tyt2016-09-20T03:30:02.000Z

This isn’t the first time Dumpson, who graduates in 2018, has seen a racist incident take place on AU’s campus. Back in March 2015, racist comments online were traced to AU students on a social media app called Yik Yak. At the time, Dumpson even considered transferring.

“But my parents were saying, ‘We’re going to let you grow where you’re planted. We’re going to see where it takes you,’” Dumpson told AU. From that moment on, she decided that improving race relations would be her goal.

“Everything I’ve done since my freshman year has really been to make sure that we’re opening and pushing the boundaries for students of color, specifically those who are going to come after me,” Dumpson told AU.

In September 2016, The Washington Post reported that a black student named Neah Gray complained about a banana being thrown at her dorm room. The university said in a statement that it investigated the incident.

After that incident, Dumpson wrote an oped in The Eagle, calling for “#SolidarityWithOurSisters.”


5. AU President Kerwin Called Dumpson an ‘Advocate for Change who Practices What She Preaches’

AU students protest against Yik Yak, university, after ongoing racist abuseStudent activists at American University have voiced concerns over how Yik Yak, a popular anonymous social media platform, has seen a growing number of racist remarks and abuse aimed at African-Americans on campus. One of the activists, Devontae Torriente, joins Manila Chan in the studio to discuss the controversy and what he hopes to accomplish. Find RT America in your area: http://rt.com/where-to-watch/ Or watch us online: http://rt.com/on-air/rt-america-air/ Like us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTAmerica Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/RT_America2015-10-26T22:44:08.000Z

When Campus Compact recently recognized Dumpson for her work, AU President Neil Kerwin also praised Dumpson for being an “advocate for change who practices what she preaches.”

“Her strength is the uncanny ability to build dialogue and coalitions across different sectors and organizations,” Kerwin wrote. “Through fresh ideas and strong facilitation and leadership skills, she generates tangible change.”

“Over my college career, I have advocated for the rights and inclusion of students from marginalized communities on a peer-to-peer level, as well as a student to administrator level,” Dumpson wrote in a statement for Campus Compact. “On campus I have had the opportunity to work with administration to create a welcome week program that focuses on social justice and connects student with community organizations and advocacy groups in the DC community dedicated to fighting for marginalized communities.”

Dumpson is majoring in law and society, with a minor in sociology. She’s a graduate of Wicomo High School in Salisbury, Maryland.