BY DRAKE RHONE
Over a hundred people crowded into Cowles Library’s reading room Thursday night to hear a diverse panel discuss whether or not Black Lives Matter is a hate group and other issues related to the movement.
Professors William Garriott and Carol Spalding-Kruse mediated the panel titled “Black Lives Matter, Hate Group or Nah?”
The event drew a crowd of a variety of diverse backgrounds to listen to four panelists, which included Brenda Vasquez (Latina), Joe Weinrich (a Trump supporter), Kevin Price (a black man with both liberal and conservative views) and Kayla Schween ( a devout Christian).
The professors asked the panelists a series of questions written by the Coalition of Black Students (CBS). In the second part of the event, audience members stood up and asked questions themselves.
Anthony Pawnell, the president of the CBS, hosted the panel with the help of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
“On Drake’s campus we talk a lot about diversity and inclusion,” Pawnell said. “We say it so much that there are hardly ever any situations where we really truly embody that. I think the event was necessary to show what that looks like. I think when you take raw concepts like diversity and inclusion, it can sometimes be hard to find an intangible way to manifest that.”
Staying true to his message, Pawnell reminded the audience and panel of his ideal for the event.
“We are not here to have a shouting match, we are not here to have a debate,” said Pawnell at the start of the panel. “Our goal is understanding.”
While the discussion never escalated to a shouting match, several of Weinrich’s conservative views were met with backlash from the crowd, who groaned and laughed at several of his answers to the questions.
“When I wear a Trump hat,” Weinrich said. “I get looks, people call me names. I feel like a second-class citizen.”
Later, Weinrich amended his statement.
“The difference is that I can put my hat away,” Weinrich said. “I can hide, I can disappear, but there are a lot of people out there that can’t do that.”
The panel discussed several topics, including the statements “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter,” popular retorts in response to Black Lives Matter activists.
“All Lives Matter negates what Black Lives Matter is doing,” Vasquez said. “I laughed when I saw Blue Lives Matter. I did. I thought it was funny.”
Weinrich said that for him, the reason people are offended by “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” is for the same reason that the “Black Lives Matter” phrase started an international movement.
“The statement creates a duality between the Black Lives Matter fight and who they are fighting against,” Weinrich said. “It’s obnoxious. It’s in your face.”
The titular question of the event, whether or not Black Lives Matter is a hate group, received the same answer from all panelists: no.
“I would classify Black Lives Matter as a love group, if I could,” Schween said.
A couple of the panelists did acknowledge problems in the movement.
“Do I think that Black Lives Matter always goes about protests the right way? No,” Price said. “But there are always certain people who have to ruin it for all of us.”
The panelists spent time discussing the role of white “allies” in the Black Lives Matter movement, including here at Drake University, where almost 80 percent of students are white.
“White people who are supporting Black Lives Matter are using their privilege to do so,” Vasquez said. “As a woman, we’ve been talking about our issues for years. Black people have been talking about Black Lives Matter for years, but they listen to the white man.”
For a more in-depth look at this issue, CBS posted a full video of the panel on its Facebook page, facebook.com/drakecbs.