Levine is a sophomore politics major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking Drake’s campus is stuck in the ‘60s. In late March, President Maxwell emailed all Drake students to remind us that it is important for us as a community to live the values that Drake holds to be true, and he urged us to sign a petition that called for an end to the “presence of racism on our campus.”
Certainly, this is a worthy goal and something we all should strive for. Racism is the worst form of collectivism — putting people into groups based on an arbitrary characteristic is truly abhorrent. However, in light of the campaign to end racism here, I think it is important to ask this: Does Drake really have a substantial problem with racism? I’m not convinced that it is as widespread as the recent uproar would make it seem.
As I am sure many are well aware, Maxwell and the writers of the petition were inspired to do something after a white woman in Jewett Hall allegedly yelled at a group of black students, telling them to “(G)et off our campus.” She went on and said, “We don’t want you on our campus. We don’t like…” The rest of the sentence was apparently inaudible.
While it is very plausibly racially motivated, I am very skeptical as to how these students spotted the woman and then recognized that she was white. Next time you’re on the painted street, look at Jewett and try to see in those windows; especially at night, there are lights on the side of the building, which further obstruct one’s view. When somebody yells at me from a dorm room above, it isn’t all that easy to spot where they’re yelling from.
Also, there have been rumors floating around — only rumors, therefore I do not know if they are valid — that the petition was created by a social media class at Drake. In my mind, it calls into question the motives of the petition. Again, I’m not sure if this is true.
However, while I remain skeptical, I am willing to accept the story as true and I feel for those students who were the victims of alleged hate speech. Yet I still do not believe that this is representative of a greater problem with accepting diversity at Drake. The petition, though, states outright that we need to “recognize that this is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader campus culture that pretends racism no longer exists.”
Really? Drake has a broad problem with ignoring racism? I would actually think that the contrary is true. Our mission statement highlights the need for “responsible global citizenship” and, as an example, during my PMAC training last year, the most stressed lesson was about multicultural understanding. We didn’t use the word “diversity” because it was too politically incorrect or something along those lines. If anything, I think Drake almost over-emphasizes the differences between cultures. Because we focus on how different our cultures are, it distracts us from the real solution to limiting racism, which is treating every individual the same — no matter what they look like.
Simply put, I have not seen this supposed “broad problem” that Drake has and I think I know why: It does not exist. After the recent incident outside of Jewett, I am not surprised by the “knee-jerk” reaction of students and faculty. An incident like that, which should never happen, does have a silver lining and is an opportunity to discuss race and diversity. However, we also run the risk of over-emphasizing a problem that really is not present in broad terms at Drake.
Yes, there have been incidents of racism on campus. And, yes, we should try to limit them. Still, we would be greatly mistaken to think racism will simply disappear. So long as ignorance is a part of the human condition, which I suspect will be an issue for a long time, racism will also exist because it is developed out of that ignorance. While discussing race may help decrease these already isolated incidents, pretending that we have a bigger problem than we do will not be helpful to Drake as a community. Rather, I think it will do more damage than anything else.