Drake’s campus had recently been hit with a series of racist acts. Such sequence of hateful actions had left many faculty, staff and students concerned about safety. In response, many in the Drake community gathered together in solidarity.
A rally on Nov. 14, “Do Better, Rally Together”, organized by Drake Students, was part of this movement. The rally urged students to better educate themselves about the history of racism and certain privileges. Several speakers stated that many students need to take more action than posting on social media. Drake sophomore, Alex Peralta-Cornejo, said one should start with having uncomfortable conversations.
“Please open dialogue,” Peralta-Cornejo said. “I know these conversations can be completely uncomfortable, but I did not create this difference.”
Peralta-Cornejo helped led the rally to speak up against racism on Nov. 16, as Paint It Black, a project created in response to hate incidents on campus, was taking place. Paint It Black gathered Drake students, faculty and staff members together to paint the Drake icon – Painted Street- in black to establish a statement of solidarity and anti-racism. The action is intended to be a pivotal moment in University history.
The Drake sophomore said he wants white students to make an effort to be more aware of the hate in our community to better embrace different students from different backgrounds.
“White people didn’t create this difference,” Peralta-Cornejo said. “Unfortunately, it exists and has brought so much hate, so it’s important to talk about these things.”
Peralta-Cornejo said that even if one might get mixed messages, the effort in making themselves more aware in the process of furthering equity and furthering relationships between all these different cultures, instead of appropriating them, is “far more important”.
“We are not trying to target white people but unfortunately we are all living under the system of white supremacy,” Peralta-Cornejo said. “I know that not all white people are bad, so to white students, I don’t hate you and your feelings are valid, but our lives are constantly being threaten.”
Peralta-Cornejo also said that because Caucasian students’ lives are not being threatened, they should use be using their privilege to help minority students and speak up against racism.
Sharing the same perspective with Peralta-Cornejo, senior Arian Spizzirri said that it is important for students to take action rather than to be a part of the problem.
“If certain people are feeling attacked, the question is why?” Spizzirri said. “I understand that sometimes when there is dialogue maybe against somewhere that you belong, say when you are white and there are dialogues against the morality of your white peers, sometimes you might feel attacked. But these students need to be comforted in the fact that it is not against them: it’s against these ideas that some of their peers are still holding on and that’s what need to be taken apart.”
Spizzirri specified that this movement is not against anybody in particular, but said she and her fellow students of color won’t stand for this racism or any white supremacist dialogue that is happening on Drake’s campus.
“Drake’s administration hasn’t attempt to address the issue in a way for white students to feel comfortable that they are not a part of the problem,” Spizzirri said. “But joining dialogue like we are having right now, the protests that we are having, understanding what is really behind the Paint It Black movement and what that means, are steps towards the right direction.”
The returning senior Arian Spizzirri is a Drake Legacy. Her mom, Clemencia Spizzirri, is a Drake alumna and also 2015 Iowa Teacher of the Year. The award, sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education, provides a platform to recognize an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges, and inspires excellence within Iowa school system. Spizzirri said that her mom also wants to take part in the movement because she also faced racism during her time at Drake.
Born and raised in Ecuador, Spizzirri moved to the States at the age of seven. She finds it important for Drake students to realize that not all Latino students here are from Mexico.
“People at Drake need to realize that there is more diversity rather than just North and Central America,” Spizzirri said. “There is a whole South America and a lot of languages are spoken in there other than Spanish.”
The Ecuador-born senior stated that not all the students here that speak Spanish speak the same Spanish. There is a variety of dialects, slang words, humors and mannerisms. She said that classes at Drake that teach Latino history and culture focus mostly on Mexico. According to Spizzirri, Drake as an educational institution is lacking in bringing the history of any other Southern American countries to student’s attention.
First-year Katie Erickson stated that an attack on one group of minorities is an attack against all groups of minorities.
“It’s important for like us, the trans and queer Community, to stand with our African American community,” Erickson said. “If any group feels like they can attack someone and think they can get away with it then who knows who they’ll try to attack next.”
Erickson stated that it is important for her community, LGBTQ, to show that they care and they are there for the People of Color (POC) community to feel valued and welcomed.
Erickson said being a transgender woman is a big part of who she is and what she has to worry about as a student at Drake and a citizen of America.
“We’re real, we exist and we’re not scary,” Erickson said. “I know that there’s a lot of false advertisement that gets put out about us to make us look like we’re evil, but I promise if you actually talk to trans people, we are not scary we mean you no harm: we just want to live our lives.”
The Environmental Science and International Relations double major pointed out that it is uncomfortable for her when people make a big deal out of her preferred pronouns.
“I know that Drake does a lot of like good education about this, but if someone tells you a name and a set of pronouns, you should just use it because it costs you nothing,” Erickson said. “If you mess up someone’s pronouns or their names, don’t make a big deal out of it, just apologize and move on.”
Erickson said she is thinking about starting a project to collect stories of minority students across campus to show a more diverse narrative about Drake.
“A lot of hate comes from lack of experience and lack of education and lack of knowing things about someone’s culture, knowing who they are,” Erickson said. “If we can put these candid stories out for people to read maybe it’ll help people here learn about someone’s struggles, experiences, and maybe that’ll start to turn some things around.”