The story of Harley Barber, the girl who got kicked out of her sorority and then expelled from the University of Alabama for her racist rants, underscores the school's tense race relations, according to students.
Barber, a 19-year-old New Jersey native, was expelled for posting videos of herself saying the n-word over and over again, one of them on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“I did something really, really bad,” Barber told the New York Post on her way from Alabama back to New Jersey. “I don’t know what to do and I feel horrible. I’m wrong and there’s just no excuse for what I did.”
Her videos are not for the faint-hearted. In the first one, she poses in a bathroom mirror and after turning off the faucet says, "We do not waste water. We don’t waste water because of people in Syria. I love how I act like I love Black people because I fucking hate n-----s. So, that’s really interesting — I fucking hate n-----s, but I just saved the fucking n-----s by shutting that water off." It looks to have been posted on her since-deleted Finstagram account, @spookyslut_.
In the second video, she addresses backlash to the first one while one of her friends yells at her to stop. “I’ve wanted to be in Alpha Phi since fucking high school and nobody fucking understands how much I love Alpha Phi,” she says into the camera. “And now someone wants to save my Finsta because I said n-----r? You know what? N-----r, n-----r, n-----r. I don’t care if it’s Martin Luther King Day.”
She continues: “I’m in the South now, bitch. So everyone can fuck off. I’m from New Jersey, so I can say n-----r as much as I want.”
The University of Alabama's Alpha Phi sorority chapter immediately kicked out Barber, condemning the language and calling itself a "diverse, values-based organization" in a statement. Alpha Phi also removed a recruitment video back in 2015 that one writer called "worse for women than Donald Trump." The video was widely mocked online for its lack of diversity.
University of Alabama president Stuart Bell called Barber's outbursts "racist and disturbing" in a statement.
“The actions of this student do not represent the larger student body or the values of our University, and she is no longer enrolled here,” Bell said. “We hold our students to much higher standards, and we apologize to everyone who has seen the videos and been hurt by this hateful, ignorant, and offensive behavior. This is not who we are; it is unacceptable and unwelcome here at UA.”
He also linked to some on-campus resources that could provide affected students with additional support.
Dozens of students at the Tuscaloosa, AL, campus held a rally and marched to the administration office Wednesday.
Today, student leaders at the University of Alabama lead a march up to the university’s administration office to address issues regarding the Harley Barber outburst. pic.twitter.com/PdSikqIsqt
— J. H. (@Her_Inclination) January 17, 2018
Dozens of University of Alabama students holding a rally on campus in Tuscaloosa. Students are upset about a UA student who posted offensive racial slurs on social media on the MLK JR Holiday pic.twitter.com/IWO9ZWL3gs
— Tim Reid (@reidreporterguy) January 17, 2018
With Barber expelled, the University of Alabama — and schools around the country — still face larger problems of racism and discrimination.
"Students and faculty have been outraged and disturbed by the remarks made by Harley, but few are surprised. We hear and see this type of language in our classrooms, dining halls, and campus parties so often that I think it's easy for us to be desensitized to it," Teryn Shipman, a junior from Atlanta and campus activist, tells Refinery29.
She described white students accusing students of color who get good grades of cheating, saying they "talk like a white person" when they are well-spoken, and other forms of racism. The school is about 76% white and 10% African-American. Shipman says there's a greater need for mandatory education around race on campus, and some students have been pressuring the administration about it.
Since Donald Trump's election, Shipman says some students have felt emboldened to make racist comments. "Since Trump's win, I can say that people are bolder in their statements and remarks, as we saw with Harley," she says. On what appears to be a cached version of Barber's since-deleted Twitter account, she retweets pro-Trump messages.
This leaves many wondering whether Alpha Phi — or the school — will discipline the girls in the car who seemed to be egging on Harley, and what the school will do to prevent incidents like this from happening again. It's also telling that the vast majority of the students marching Wednesday, including Shipman, are Black.
For things to change, "everyone has to be as passionate and outraged as I am," says Shipman.