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‘Sounds Like Hate’: Students, alumni push back against Confederate memorials at Virginia Military Institute

The two newest episodes of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s acclaimed podcast, “Sounds Like Hate,” examine the story of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and a growing movement of students and alumni who are demanding the removal of monuments that glorify the Confederacy and the legacy of slavery.

Dubbed “Wake-Up Call,” the two-part feature highlights students and alumni of color who share stories of the trauma and racism they suffered at an institution in Lexington, Virginia, that has been around since before the Civil War.

The first episode was released today. Part two will premiere on June 21.

The episodes also contain commentary from former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, as well as interviews with students and alumni who are working to improve the college and hold VMI accountable. They are challenging their alma mater to leave behind its white supremacist traditions and deeply rooted reverence for the Confederacy.

“This story is not just a wake-up call for VMI but also for every leader in education, business, politics or the military in this country,” said Jamila Paksima, co-executive producer and co-host of the “Sounds Like Hate” series, now in its fourth season.

“As you listen, step into the shoes of marginalized Americans who deserve equality in every aspect of being a citizen. Ask yourself: Rather than leading, are you oppressing? Instead of teaching excellence, are you defending a system frozen in time? Are you cultivating courageous leaders or preserving idols? And, what reckoning should happen to fully see the human before you?”

Throughout the series, award-winning journalists and co-hosts Paksima and Yvonne Latty guide listeners through thought-provoking conversations and highlight issues involving hate and extremism. While they don’t provide easy answers in this two-part series, they powerfully detail the barriers to making systemic changes that promote racial justice.

“Since its inception, the ‘Sounds Like Hate’ podcast team has told powerful stories about people and communities grappling with hate and racism – as well as the search for solutions,” said Susan Corke, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “The reporting has been critically acclaimed with Webby nominations and by CNN.

“The two newest episodes focus on efforts to remove Confederate memorials from VMI as the school grapples with Confederate legacies of racism and white supremacy on campus. Through first-person accounts, we learn about how some students and alumni have demanded that the institution make changes and better support students of color. This timely story happens as the U.S military confronts its own complicity in venerating the Confederacy and asks important questions about how to make long-term structural changes that promote racial justice.”

Illustration by Richard Chance