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Covert racism, subtle in application, often appears hidden by norms of association, affiliation, group
membership and/or identityCovert racism operates as a boundary keeping mechanism whose
primary purpose is to maintain social distance between racial majorities and racial minorities.1
Rodney C. Coates, Ph.D.

his book is both a memoir and a textbook on institutional

racism. It is written in a manner that hopefully will be
appreciated and understood by academics and laypersons alike.
When I arrived at Emporia State University (ESU) in the hot
summer days of July 2014 I never imagined that this book would
emerge. I had planned to write peer-reviewed journal articles on
my theory of visual cognition, the basis for my dissertation. I was
hired as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the School of Library
and Information Management (SLIM), and my wife had been
hired in SLIM as Assistant to the Dean managing Marketing. My
plans were interrupted on April 8th, 2015 by text messages from
my wife Angelica which are shown on the following pages.
Angelica had a graduate assistant named Brenda helping her with
reports and marketing and the text messages related to what
Brenda had shown her and told her that afternoon. I was in the
weekly faculty meeting with the dean and my faculty colleagues
across the hall from Brendas office on the fourth floor of the SLIM
offices in the William Allen White Library building. The text
messages you see are foundational facts. This book emerges from
these facts, using grounded theory as the benchmark.2
1 Rodney D. Coates, Covert Racism: Theories, Institutions, and
Experiences (Brill, 2011), 2.
2 Norman K Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, The Sage Handbook of
Qualitative Research (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005).

Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State



Carolina were still smoldering on September 22nd, 2016, when
United States House Representative for the 9th District of
North Carolina, Robert Pittenger, appeared on a news segment
broadcast on the BBC and made the most explicit and offensive
commentary that we have ever heard in our lifetimes regarding
African Americans. That statement may seem like a stretch, but
you can read his words for yourself, or pull it up on the
Internet. In one fell swoop Pittenger tore apart the thin flimsy
sequined veil that separates everyday covert white racism which
operates across all sectors of American life; from the in-your-face
uncut vulgarity of swastika-emblazoned skinheads to that
insidious silent racism which operates on the down low in
towering corporations and ivy-wrapped institutions of higher
learning, he gave it all a singular voice. Pittenger uncloaked the
raging white elephant in the room we call America. Joining the
ranks emboldened by the likes of Donald Trump, he made no
bones about his proclivities and his prejudice. In response to the
reporter's question, who asked "What is their grievance in their
mind?" he responded without hesitation:
"The grievance in their mind is the animus, the anger. They
hate white people because white people are successful, and
they're not. And yes, it is. It is a welfare state. We have spent
trillions of dollars on welfare, but weve put people in bondage
so that they cant be all that they are capable of being.
America is a country of opportunity, and freedom and liberty.
It didnt become that way because of a great government that
provided everything for everyone. No. The destiny of America,

Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

the freedom to come to this country, where theyre still coming

to our shores, is because they can take their work ethic and
their hard effort, and put up their cap on their wrist, and build
out their lives.3
As I sat here, almost a continent away in Arizona, and listened
to those cruel words coming from a U.S. Congressman, my
reaction was a strange and indescribable mixture of anger,
confusion, and hopelessness, because this is the twenty-first
century, supposedly light years ahead of the violence of white
hooded lynch mobs, crosses burning on front yards, and the toxic
ignorance of Jim Crow segregationists. While one could be
tempted to classify this racist rant as something from someone on
the margins of society, he was elected by a majority somewhere
who probably hold similar views, and in reality, he is not that
much different from so many other white Americans who bask in
hegemonic privilege and seemingly walk the Earth with an air of
entitlement to cultural worship, looking down their noses on other
cultures, and on black people in particular.
Outward appearances can be deceiving, but appearances are
what this book is all about. Things in America, especially when it
comes to African Americans, have never been what they seem.
What is significant is that the need for social awareness of what is
factual and what is not has not diminished, despite the election of
an African American President and the integration of many
aspects and areas of American life.
When all was said and done, a U.S. Congressman characterized
the anger of the rioters as being directed towards the material

3 Colin Campbell, Pittenger Apologizes for Saying Charlotte

Protesters Hate White People | News & Observer, News Observer,
September 22, 2016,


the September 15th protest march. On the day of the march, the
Emporia Gazette interviewed the vice president of the BSU,
student Deidra Elijah. Elijah said Students see stuff going on and
nothing being done about it. We are the voice of this campus. Our
generation wants a change, so if no one is going to do it then we
are. When you actually sit down [with the Hales] and hear their
perspective, that is when you understand things that are
important. Even if it isnt considered a hate crime, it is emotionally
harmful. These are things that scar a person for the rest of their
life.9 Elijah organized a prayer circle at the beginning of the
march, and spoke out in a rousing heart-felt prayer.

Emporia State BSU vice president Deidra Elijah leading prayer at Sept. 15th, 2015
March on Emporia

Elijah was an influential student leader, president of the Zeta

Phi Beta Sorority at ESU, and secretary of the Multicultural Greek
9 Jessie Wagoner, March on Emporia | News |,
Emporia Gazette, September 16, 2015,


Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

Council. She was more active with us than the BSU president,
Emmanuel Cockrell, who had just been hired as Interim President
Jackie Viettis graduate assistant, and didnt want to rock the
political boat. This is what he told Jason Brooks. So Elijahs
support meant a lot, and Angelica felt that they had developed a
real bond. In a public Facebook post, Elijah stated Its been such
an honor working with you all! Please let us know if you need
anything! Less than two weeks later Elijah and the BSU
disappeared from the face of the earth as far as we were
concerned. She, along with the vast majority of previous
supporters on the campus, abruptly, and without explanation, cut
off all communication with us. Elijah never returned phone calls
or the t-shirts and money that the BSU made from fundraising for
the marches. What had happened?
What happened was that ESU administrators, led by Vietti,
went on a campaign of personal and group meetings in which they
made it clear that they were going to terminate me and tell the
world that they need to not communicate with us, in other words,
put us under the iron curtain of a personnel matter, and
demonize all who supported us. Deidra Elijah and the BSU tucked
their tails between their legs and backed down. Much of this
played out in a September BSU meeting attended by interim
president Vietti from which we were excluded, although we had
been welcome at previous BSU meetings. Vietti steadfastly refused
to even talk to us during her time at ESU. A white student named
Jay, who was an ardent supporter of social justice, attended that
BSU meeting, and when Vietti came to the meeting he lit into her
for numerous things, including her refusal to speak directly to us.
Jay asked Vietti point blank if she had ever spoken to the Hales,
and her answer was an emphatic No. Jay asked the hard
questions that Elijah earlier had said she and the BSU were going
to ask. According to Jay, he was so intense in his questioning of


Vietti and the flawed ESU internal investigation, that Vietti was so
angry she left in tears.
Elijah and the BSU were furious with Jay! BSU officers had
already agreed in their earlier closed-door meeting with Vietti to
follow the administrations game plan. Jay wasnt for sale. Vietti
made it clear, no doubt, that those who stood with the Hales would
suffer their fate, and those who supported the school would be
rewarded. Not only did Elijah verbally berate Jay, other BSU
members later accosted Jay and threatened physical violence for
his supporting us and confronting them for their silent treatment
towards us.

ESU Interim President Jackie Vietti attending the September 17th, 2015 BSU meeting. BSU
president Emmanuel Cockrell is on the left and Froilan Huachaca is on the right.


Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

answer two days later. Angelica served Kevin Johnson personally

in the foyer of Plumb Hall the next day, and you should have seen
the look on his face that we could be so audacious. I loved it.
What should come as a shock to all, because it certainly came as
a shock to us, is that the American Library Association (ALA), the
accrediting organization for library schools was likewise aligned
with the non-sympathetic racist crowd, and with the politics of
silence as perpetrated by ESU. Those in the library field are well
aware of the incredible whiteness of the profession, but the public
face of the ALA presents the best of democratic ideals: freedom of
speech, equality and non-censorship. The reality when it comes to
social justice is very different.

Angelica serving the summons to federal court on ESU General Counsel Kevin Johnson


Institutional Racism 101

was sitting in a faculty meeting on April 8th, 2015, when my

cellphone chirped to inform me that I had a message. I quietly
turned it over and entered my password to see who was trying to
reach me. Not surprisingly, it was Angelica. We often texted
throughout the day. But this was not going to turn out to be an
ordinary day. My two word reply after reading her message and
seeing the photo she sent along with it was: Not good!!! We had
no idea how bad it was going to get.
On April 8th, 2015, the graduate assistant who reported to
Angelica at Emporia State University came to work in the
afternoon to find her office door unlocked, things in the office
tampered with, and the word NIGGAZ scrawled on the notepad
that she left on her desk before leaving work the previous day.
That student worked on media campaigns and projects with
Angelica, whose title was Assistant to the Dean, Marketing. We
were the only African Americans in the department, the School of
Library and Information Management, and we occupied two large
offices on the fourth floor, the top floor. My office was 416,
Angelicas office was 415, and the students office was 413. All of
these offices were accessed through locked doors with keys
specifically assigned and provided to each of us. They were not
ESU General Counsel Kevin Johnson, and Interim President
Jackie Vietti would later assert that the students office was a

Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

by upstanding African Americans. When white clashes with black

at an academic plantation always bet on white.

David Robertson, President and COO, Koch Industries; Dale Gibbens, SVP, Koch
Industries; and Kim Penner, President, Koch Pipeline at the dedication of the Koch Center
for Leadership and Ethics at ESU.

This type of white power structure is often backed by big

money. The situation at ESU is no different. The connection
between Emporia State University and Koch Industries is
undeniable and inseparable. For more information about this, I
refer you to Jane Mayers Dark Money.18 The current President
and Chief Operating Officer for Koch Industries, David L.
Robertson, earned his bachelors degree in business
administration and marketing from ESU. He is the past president
of Koch Petroleum Group, Koch Beef Company and Koch
Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires
Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, 1 edition (Doubleday, 2016).


The Cover-Up (and the Whitewash)

cover-up attempts to conceal facts. It can be passive or active.

It attempts to hide information that is evidence of wrongdoing, and/or things that are embarrassing or humiliating. When
a cover-up is actively endorsed by figures of authority using
deception and misinformation, you have a whitewash. The coverup typically involves withholding damning information, while the
whitewash involves creating lies and false narratives. Institutional
and structural racism on an academic plantation travels this low
road while proclaiming to the world that it is taking the high road.
It uses intricate mechanisms to self-validate. The first warning
sign of a cover-up and whitewash is an internal investigation. In a
conversation with Mirah Dow I asked her why her lifelong friend,
Jackie Vietti, wasnt telling the truth. Mirah said: I dont know. I
really wanted to believe shed do the right thing, but Ive felt
awfully worried about this whole idea of an internal investigation.
I felt really worried about that when I came away from that
meeting we had on Friday because most of the time an internal
investigation is never going to turn out right. Mirah was telling
the truth. The meeting on Friday that she referred to was held in
July. This conversation took place in October after the results of
the investigation came out. Mirah and I both knew that Jackie was
lying and that her investigation was a stinking pile of fiction.
Social justice activist, philosopher, and academic, Cornel West,
recently stated that These days, honesty and integrity taken

The Cover-up (and the Whitewash)

Despite the excellence that I brought from UCLA and my

popularity as an instructor, I was still just a nigger with sand
when it came to my report of a hate crime, and the naming of
Gwens office manager as a suspect.

Angelica Hale and Gwen Alexander in the ESU Library Commons at the Geraldine Strader
event that Angelica hosted on April 10th, 2015, only two days after the hate crime.

What about my attitude during the challenging time I was being

denigrated and lied on? Was I combative and uncivil? Not
according to fellow faculty member Sarah Sutton, who headed up
the search committee that recommended hiring me. Heres what
Sarah had to say in an email message after I was taunted by Dean
Alexander in a faculty meeting:
Hi Melvin,
I have to say that I really appreciate how gracefully youve
handled the whole situation. I greatly appreciate that and
respect you for it.
Sarah (August 13th, 2015)


The Cover-up (and the Whitewash)

is a prime example of how a cover-up and a whitewash are

implemented on an academic plantation, oppressing and
marginalizing and inflicting pain and suffering on upstanding
African Americans in the 21st century. This is a textbook case of
institutional, structural, racism.
The following chart names some of the influential individuals
and entities that support the flawed investigation and the lies
that were told by Emporia State University.


The March on Emporia State

he idea for the march was born with no real forethought or

planning, but it surely was meant to be. When we got the call
from Associated Press reporter Margaret Stafford on July 28th
asking us what we planned to do about what was happening at
ESU, towards the end of the interview Angelica told me to tell her
that were planning a protest march for September 15th when the
American Library Associations External Review Panel would be at
SLIM. It also coincided with the end of the NAACPs march from
Selma, Alabama to Washington D.C. that started on August 1st.
History has a way of repeating itself, but unfortunately, the history
repeating itself at that moment was the ugly racist behavior of
Emporia State University mimicking that of the bigots in Selma,
Alabama in 1965 who met MLK and the protest marchers at the
Edmond Pettus Bridge with violence.
Life has a way of preparing us for the challenges we face. Im an
award-winning digital artist, and I publish my compositions on
canvas. Ive owned art galleries in Indialantic, Florida and in Palm
Springs, California. Up through my final year at UCLA I had a
wide format digital printer which I purchased new in 2001. At that
time it was the best archival quality wide format printer money
could buy, but by 2014 it was antiquated. Finding ink alone was
next to impossible. It was a reliable workhorse though, and during
the 13 years I had it, it was a tireless performer, printing literally
thousands of fine art prints. I left it next to the dumpster at the

The March on Emporia State

UCLA Apartments on Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles when we

moved to Emporia. I had nothing to produce my artwork on, and I
couldnt afford the wide format printer that replaced the original
one, so I didnt dare even dream about it. But, to my surprise, I
found one for next to nothing in the spring of 2015. A
photographer in New Jersey simply wanted someone to come and
get it out of his studio. The cost of having it shipped to Kansas cost
more than what I paid for it, and it arrived stood up like a fridge, a
real no-no, and it was damaged cosmetically. But when I plugged
it in and it went through its start-up routine, it finished by flashing
Ready on the control panel. It physically looked as if it had been
to hell and back, but it was ready. And it came with several rolls of
photo paper, some of which were 44 inches wide and 100 feet long.
Little did I know that this paper would make it possible for me to
produce what I like to call the March of Signs and Wonders!
Signs talk while marchers walk. In order to be truly impactful
and memorable, the signs should tell the story. The theme of the
overall protest at ESU was Love Not Hate, so the majority of the
signs simply said that. We even made t-shirts with that message.

Love Not Hate


Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

Dean Alexanders retaliatory actions led directly to this turmoil,

so she earned her own photo-sign.

Dismiss the Dean

The dean made the statement that This is Kansas so I felt that
it was necessary to make a sign for that too.

This is Kansas


The March on Emporia State

Aside from the messages on the signs themselves, the sight of

protesters exercising their First Amendment rights was powerful.
Seeing them standing facing Plumb Hall, the administration
building, in defiance of its plantation and culturally backwards
mentality, confronting decades of white power and privilege was
both alarming and infuriating to ESU, occurring after ESU had
announced the results of their investigation. As I looked up at
the windows on the second floor of Plumb Hall I made eye contact
with Kevin Johnson. The March of Signs and Wonders was an
event that he could never have imagined, and it must have filled
him, and many of those looking out those windows, with rage and
anger. From here we marched and faced the William Allen White
Library where the act of racial bullying had occurred, confronting
the resident evil there.

Marchers Standing Facing Plumb Hall

Little wonder that within hours Johnson and Vietti were

quickly making the rounds of student organizations, starting with
the Black Student Union, demanding that they stand down and
renounce their support for our cause and for diversity, or be faced


Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

conditions on my re-filing, the judge denied their motion and left

the door open for me to finish the matter later. Note that I may
have to update this chapter of the book with a different outcome

Nine of the sixteen individual defendants in my third amended complaint

Now I would like to say a few things about how I was able to
write legal briefs that stood up against experienced litigators.
What I did would have been impossible prior to the evolution of

The Court Battle

the Internet. I learned how to format my legal briefs from looking

at similar cases. I had to be able to cite case law that is current and
relevant, looking first for cases that have been decided in the
Tenth Circuit. This information is on the Internet, but you have to
know how to search for it.

Seven more of the sixteen individual defendants in my third amended complaint


This is Kansas

n November 2015 the state of Kansas was awarded an F by

the Center for Public Integrity, a winner of the 2014 Pulitzer
Prize. Kansas received this overall mark for State Integrity, which
uses a number of factors to assess the systems in place to deter
corruption in state government. The categories studied include:
Public Access to Information
Political Financing
Electoral Oversight
Executive Accountability
Legislative Accountability
Judicial Accountability
State Budget Processes
State Civil Service Management
Internal Auditing
Lobbying Disclosure
Ethics Enforcement Agencies
State Pension Fund Management




Kansas holds four of the lowest ten rankings, including 49th

and 50th for Procurement and Internal Auditing. As the saying
goes, crap flows downhill, so it should come as no surprise that
Emporia State University gets an F for transparency and truth.

This is Kansas

MugBase, the digital imaging system I designed for law enforcement in the early 1990s

No one has ever accused

me of being intellectually
lame; quite the contrary. My
verbal score on the GRE in
2008, which I took at age
fifty-five with less than two
weeks to study was 94%. I
have never needed affirmative action. I am affirmative action. I
hold a Bachelors in Theology from Pacific Union College, a
Masters in Religion from Andrews University, a Masters in Library
and Information Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. from UCLA in
Information Studies. Im no saint, but I do possess a strong
predisposition for social justice and equality. Why do I need to tell
you all of this? As a result of these vicious lies there were angry


Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

perform right from the start. I like people, and I like to be liked, so
I did not feel comfortable being caught in the middle of a raging
battle. However, I could not ignore the fact that many of the
faculty and staff that the dean had disposed of were persons of
color. It became clear that Gwen did not want to award tenure to
anyone of color, although she rushed and gave Andrew Smith
tenure after only two years at SLIM. Smith had zero publications
and no library degree! At the end of my first semester in SLIM the
dean also terminated Capps and Hinson. Angelica would end up in
Hinsons old office. So, within the space of six months I personally
watched as Dean Alexander terminated four faculty members; two
persons of color and the two white faculty members who
empathized with them. I was beginning to have my doubts about
SLIM being a great place to work, and Dean Alexander being a
great boss.

Photo taken at the Ph.D. Student Retreat in Overland Park, Fall 2014

After the termination of Singh, Tuai, Capps and Hinson, only

three faculty remained from those who had been on staff when I

KBI Theory and Racism

acism is a visually mediated practice. KBI is a theory of visual

perception and a qualitative method. KBI stands for know,
believe, imagine. I am going to use KBI to look at notions of race
and racism. This chapter is adapted from a presentation I gave at
the National Conference of African American Librarians in St.
Louis, Missouri on August 5th, 2015 entitled Demystifying
Visuality: Reframing the Discussion on Social Justice.

Couple in Raccoon Coats - Reimagined is a color composition I created from a famous

James VanDerZee black & white photo using the KBI method in art practice.

As with many scientific discoveries, KBI was discovered by

accident. KBI emerged when I set about adding color to black-andwhite photographs in May 2006. In order to accomplish this task,
I followed a strict method. I did research to determine known
colors when possible; I am constrained to use colors that are
plausible and appropriate for the period; and many of my color
choices are pure artistic license, resulting in a blend of all three

KBI Theory and Racism

mental states. It is art after all. I want the finished reimagined

composition to be as realistic and aesthetic as possible. This tripart method has never failed me. No pixels are ever left behind.

KBI in art practice brought awards and devoted patrons. Shown above is the color
composition Chi Chi and Cubana which won a Crystal Award of Excellence at the 2007
California State Fair. It was composed from a 1943 black-and-white real postcard of Palm
Springs. Three other pieces of mine won Awards of Merit at the California State Fair.

The KBI method in art practice has been consistently applied to

hundreds of images with wonderful results. This work demands
factual information, well-informed beliefs, and a large measure of
imagination. It reverse engineers how visual cognition works. By
slowing down the process, I was able to understand how the mind
makes sense of visual stimuli. In daily use, as the foundation of
seeing, KBI is a powerful mental strategy that makes economical
use of limited cognitive resources.


KBI Theory and Racism

are constant reminders that we need a science-based assessment

of the situation, and that platitudes, and gestures, and even laws,
are woefully inadequate and insufficient to dismantle the effects of
centuries of racism. KBI offers insight into the science of seeing.

The blackface mask capitalized on longings for "authentic" African American culture
while satisfying feelings of white supremacyall toward the profit of the white performers

The issue with blackface arose as recently as November 2016 at

ESU when Kayla Gilmore, now president of the BSU, and Sarah
Spoon, still with the Bulletin, confronted a white visitor in
blackface on the campus on Halloween and was offended. It is
interesting that both Gilmore and Spoon, original defendants in
my lawsuit, are speaking out against discrimination, but The
Bulletin wrote a story on it where Gilmore says, Blackface is
something that used to be in minstrel shows when white people
would emulate their perception of how black slaves wereIt was


Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

how they perceived black people would entertain their masters

and the company that they brought around them. She continued
by saying that I got frustrated because there is obviously a long
history to blackface.
I find it interesting that when something happens to Kayla and
Sarah they are now quick to speak out against their own
experiences with racism, but allowed themselves to be muzzled
when we were referred to as Niggaz and spoke out against racism;
and the prime suspect in our case is a longtime ESU staff member.
The conduct of the administration at Emporia State University
is a clear indication and is a remnant thread passed down of the
sick twisted plantation mentality that dehumanized and degraded
African 300 years ago is still alive in public institutions in the 21 st
century. Public institutions are a smaller reflection of society. For
example, images of me posted in the ESU Bulletin never portrayed
me as a professional to paint a picture of me to their student
population, Hornet Nation. They did their very best to portray me
as unsophisticated; as a nigger. And they never addressed me by
my academic title: Dr. Melvin Hale, it was always just Melvin Hale.
They stopped using the term professor. The following is a typical
image of me printed in the Bulletin.


Love Not Hate

ne of the more challenging facets of pursuing justice at an

institution that practices overt racism is doing so without
succumbing to rage and mimicking their violation of crucial social
values. The positive value we wanted to express in the March on
Emporia is that the culture of love is the cure for the culture of
A clear indication that ESU did not value a culture of love is
embedded in the rant that Dean Alexander gave in the faculty
meeting on August 26th, 2015. Heres a transcript of what was said.
This transcript also illustrates a blatant violation of free speech:
Mirah Dow: And so, in the tradition of getting organized for
a meeting, I invited you all to share items from the agenda, and
so I hope I havent left out anything, and I want to remind you
that you can send those to me at any time. I keep a list of those
as they evolve over the course of two weeks, and thats what we
finally have. And you can even share items at the last minute as
you think of them. The procedure shouldnt keep us from
having what we need on that agenda.
Melvin Hale: And Mirah, did you get mine already [that] I
sent? Okay, I was going to say a few words on the march.
Andrew Smith: Im opposing that. Not appropriate.

Django Unchained and the March on Emporia State

and doing damage to liars long after the writer is dead. The truths
that were told in the marches, and in the lawsuit, will be enshrined
forever in the words of this book. The message will always be:

I love myself way too much to morph into a hater as recourse

for settling a heinous affront to my Constitutional and God-given
right to the pursuit of happiness. Im not going to hate racist
unsympathetic white people; but if and when they cross that line
and think that they can treat me like a nigger (as they define that
term), I am within my rights as a full citizen of this republic to deal
with their aggressions, and I will so with all my might. I do not
consider success gained by bigotry as something to emulate or to
envy. I believe that ultimately everyone will reap what they sow! I
am well within my right to push back against white rage and white
The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement.
It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem;
rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose,
with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal
citizenship. It is blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to
give up. A formidable array of policy assaults and legal
contortions has consistently punished black resilience, black


Appendix B