On Oct. 5, Drake University President Marty Martin sent out a campus-wide email about an incident involving a white supremacist hate group known as Patriot Front. In the days before the email, Drake Public Safety was made aware that Patriot Front had placed stickers advertising itself on surfaces around campus.
“We have every reason to believe an outside group was responsible for this vandalism and we understand their goal is to stoke fear and instill division,” Martin wrote. “We also understand such acts of racism are hurtful and cause harm to our campus community.”
This is not the first time a white supremacist group has inserted itself into Drake’s community. On Nov. 8, 2018, a white supremacist hate group called Road to Power orchestrated a robocall to Drake’s landlines that was full of racist language. It came just as Drake was hosting a meeting to address its response to several threatening racist notes slipped under the doors of students of color.
In an interview in Dec. 2018, Martin said the group had found out about the meeting from the media and timed their robocall to disrupt it, but to no avail. The meeting continued, and student organizers of #PaintItBlack won the right to paint Painted Street black to stand in solidarity with students of color. Some students who were here for both of these incidents are drawing parallels between them.
“Both incidents are acts of cowardice, ignorance, and hate,” wrote Morgan Coleman, student body president and one student organizer of #PaintItBlack.
Coleman said she was just outside the Cowles Library reading room where the meeting was held in 2018 when the call came in.
“I remember that the room was filled with a lot of confusion, and then it was hit with another wave of emotion and anger,” Coleman wrote. “Students were crying, and administrators and faculty were learning about the situation and dealing with it real-time.”
When Coleman found out about the stickers Patriot Front placed around campus, her reaction stemmed from her experiences these past three years on campus.
“As a Black student who was here three years ago, the first thing I said was, ‘We’ve been here before.’ Unfortunately, things like this no longer surprise me,” Coleman wrote. “Given my current role on campus, I was overwhelmed by a lot of questions. In this instance, I don’t just get to react as a Black student, but as a Black student who people look to for answers.”
In his email notifying campus of this incident, Martin said this incident is contrary to what Drake University stands for.
“We will not tolerate racism or hatred of any form on this campus, no matter the source,” Martin wrote. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to upholding human dignity and fostering a culture of belonging across the university.”
That commitment, however, does not mean Drake’s work on this issue is finished. Coleman says white supremacy remains an issue on this campus.
“Like all universities, Drake still has work to do. Although the group responsible is not directly affiliated with students at the University, this should serve as a reminder that silence is a form of violence,” Coleman wrote. “To say that white supremacy isn’t an issue anywhere is incorrect, irresponsible and blatantly wrong.”
Coleman has been at the forefront of this work for over three years. She helped organize #PaintItBlack, served as co-president of the UNITY Roundtable and equity and inclusion senator in Student Senate, and now represents the whole student body as its president. When asked what Drake can do to make it clear that Patriot Front’s beliefs are not tolerated while also ensuring the physical and emotional safety of students of color, Coleman said that more white people need to step up and do this work, too.
“Call out these beliefs. Put a name to it. Do something about it,” Coleman wrote. “Stop relying on Black students and students of color to do the hard work. This isn’t our job. Listen to us and believe us.”