BY KATHERINE BAUER AND JESSIE SPANGLER
White sheets of paper emblazoned with the words, “It’s okay to be white” were found twice on campus last Tuesday — one glued to a window at Meredith and the other glued to one of the sculptures sitting in front of the fine arts center.
Tony Tyler, director of student engagement, equity and inclusion, said these types of posters are being used by white supremacist groups to recruit on college campuses across the country.
“(It’s) a way to attempt to reframe some of the conversation going on around the nation … around race and privilege, to sort of embrace a perception of … white victimhood,” Tyler said.
Because of this association with hate organizations, Scott Law, director for campus public safety, sent out an officer to take photos of the first sign. He received a call from another officer reporting a second sign at the fine arts center.
“We reached out to Des Moines (police department) to see if they were aware of them,” Law said. “I heard it from Tony (Tyler) and then I also heard from Des Moines that they had gotten some complaints about them being on local businesses.”
Both posters were removed. Equity and Inclusion Senators Jose Garcia and Kaylah Harrington were notified, as well as Student Body President Nathan Paulsen.
“My initial reaction was how I feel every time something like this happens,” Paulsen said. “It’s kind of my nightmare. It’s not what I want to wake up to.”
An email was sent to the UNITY Roundtable organizations the same day.
Drake Public Safety is unsure of who put the posters up. However, Law said students shouldn’t take the posters down if they see one but instead report it to Public Safety. He also said if students see someone putting up a sign to not stop them and call Public Safety.
The posters were also posted around Grand View University and Iowa State University. The idea for the posters stemmed from the anonymous social site 4chan, according to the Washington Post.
“On the face of the posters, the statement ‘it’s okay to be white’ seems pretty benign, pretty unassuming,” said Erin Lain, the associate provost for campus equity and inclusion. “Not something that seems divisive or hurtful but when you go to the website of the group that’s been organizing these posters, and you look at some of their goals, which is to create chaos and get people upset about basically white people losing power within our communities and structures, it starts to take a different tone.”
Lain said that these signs are meant to cause conflict on campus, mainly between people of different races, and that’s not something Drake will tolerate.
“I think there is an element of, not recruiting, but perpetuating this divisiveness, something that we don’t stand for at Drake,” Lain said. “We really stand for inclusion and helping people see the value in all people, and not this division, particularly between people of different races and ethnicities.”
Tyler said the posters are likely trying to spread a message of white victimhood.
“If it is sort of being framed in terms of trying to, sort of, embrace some victimhood or a sense of being oppressed on the part of white people, I want to have more conversation about that, too,” Tyler said. “That would be a good educational opportunity.”
UNITY Roundtable and Student Senate are hosting an event Thursday night at 5 p.m. on Pomerantz Stage to discuss these posters and the follow-up question of “What kind of white people do we want to be?”
This incident occurs after a swastika was carved into the Olmsted elevator and a racial slur was scrawled on a first-year’s whiteboard on the door of her dorm room.
“Although they’re different acts, different things that are happening, everything is kind of related to the same thing and it’s the sense that we are divided on campus. There is still a divide,” Paulsen said. “And to know that this is still continuously happening even after I’ve made stands, after I’ve made statements, that spinning stomach and that nervousness goes away and it’s filled with frustration. As president, obviously, I have to react not with frustration, but show some sort of unity.”