RAs tell UMass students Harambe jokes are an 'attack' on African Americans

AMHERST, Mass. — An email sent to some students at UMass Amherst is drawing criticism after students were told not to make drawings about Harambe, the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo earlier this year.

>> READ MORE: Stop making Harambe memes, Cincinnati Zoo says

In May, Harambe grabbed a 4-year-old who fell into his enclosure and was shot and killed by zoo keepers. The shooting sparked a national debate about animal welfare and parenting at the time, and more recently has become a crude online joke.

When students moved in to the UMass Amherst Sycamore dorm this weekend, they began drawing and referencing the joke on whiteboards hung on each room.

The letter from two RAs warned that any crude remarks about the gorilla would be considered “not only derogatory, but also micro-aggressions” that are a "direct attack to our campus's African-American community."

“I do kind of think they went way too far with the policy of banning it out right,” UMass freshman Vinny Pietroaolo said.

The RAs also wrote about an African Heritage Student Community called Harmbee, which is the Swahili word meaning “the point at which things come together.”

“It was really sort of an educational moment that they were trying to share, that’s all. There was no censorship involved. It was a matter of hey, there is a group that’s been for her for a long time that’s our fellow students, and there can be misunderstandings,” UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said.

In the end though, school officials said the biggest concern is how the Harambe references are made.

“People can continue to reference the gorilla,” Blaguszewski said. ”It needs to be placed in proper context, that’s all.”

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