For a challenge called #PaintItBlack, college students are covering their dorm room doors with black paper to support a student who received a racist note warning, “Leave or else.”
On Wednesday, the note was slid under the door of the unnamed student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. It read, “We’ve decided that we no longer want [you] on our campus. Which means you need to leave or else,” and contained racial slurs.
“What’s being done for our personal safety, at this point?” African-American student Anika Boyert said to the Des Moines Register. “Because this is a threat.”
Boyert said other racist messages were recently left on students’ whiteboards, including the phrase “Build the wall” on the door of a Latina student. “The fact that it happens on a consistent basis, to me, it means there’s not enough being done,” she said.
A spokesperson for Drake University sent a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle, posted to the Drake website, written by Erin Lain, an associate professor of law and the associate provost for campus equality and inclusion. “This conduct is an affront to our institutional values, it is an attack on the personal dignity and well-being of the student targeted, and it is in violation of our Student Code of Conduct. I am writing on behalf of senior leadership to make clear that we will not tolerate hateful acts such as this on our campus. …
“Unfortunately, this most recent incident isn’t the only troubling behavior that has happened on campus this semester,” wrote Lain. “There have been other incidents recently, and each one erodes our sense of community, and our trust in one another.”
Right after the victim reported the note to the university’s public safety office, a group of students met to discuss resolutions, and one initiative, called the Paint It Black Project, took off. Its mission “seeks to publicly recognize acts of hate and shatter the conventional campus culture of silence, to foster a sense of community among identities.”
According to organizer Morgan Coleman, 18, many students are frustrated by the display of hatred. “As a black student, I personally feel paranoid and frightened walking about, especially at night,” Coleman tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Not only am I afraid of the individual(s) who wrote the note, I am afraid of [any] individuals [who] are upset about #PaintItBlack, who haven’t expressed their feelings. Other black students and general students of color are also incredibly afraid for their safety, and are emotionally and mentally drained.”
Coleman adds that the note writer “poses a legitimate threat” in part because his or her identity hasn’t been revealed. “It has created a heightened security and safety issue for students of color at Drake, and especially those in the same residence,” she says.
However, thanks to #PaintItBlack, students, including members of fraternities and sororities, and staff and faculty are tweeting photos of their blacked-out doors. The project also includes plans to paint a campus street black, an offshoot of an annual sporting tradition that includes street art.
While this may not be a total of Drake life for every student, for black students and POC on this campus, this note is reality. This threat to our existence because of ignorance, fear and racism, is reality. #thisisdrake to change the narrative, we must actively fight it pic.twitter.com/StWndVaEt3
— Morgan Coleman (@MorganNicolesc) November 9, 2018
— The #PaintitBlack Project (@PaintitBlackDU) November 12, 2018
— jessie spangler (@jessiespangler3) November 12, 2018
— Christine Marchand (@CrunchM1) November 12, 2018
— Jennifer Harvey (@drjenharvey) November 12, 2018
I stand in support of our students of color. Hate has no place on this campus. #PAiNTitBLACK
I have extra poster board for any faculty or staff in Aliber Hall who would like to join me. pic.twitter.com/MA379F9o0I
— Heidi Mannetter (@ProfMannetter) November 12, 2018
— Dan Chibnall (@bookowl) November 12, 2018
#paintitblack drake faculty, staff, and students taking a stand against racism and hatred – and in favor of and fully supporting WELCOME, diversity, equity, and justice. #paintitblack pic.twitter.com/lQNKK4yfzZ
— Renee Ann Cramer (@Smilla1972) November 12, 2018
Lain tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the university is holding a rally on Wednesday (classes are canceled for the event) to protest racism. “In the past few years, we’ve had some incidents,” she says. “Each time, whether or not it’s risen to the legal definition of a hate crime, we’ve condemned it as a community.”
In 2017, Drake University president Marty Martin wrote a community letter regarding two racist incidents that occurred on campus. “Unfortunately, this weekend we have been confronted with the same type of hatred and fear-mongering on our own campus as was seen in Charlottesville and Creston,” he wrote. “At some point during the weekend, someone carved a swastika in the elevator in Olmsted Center. At some point last night someone wrote the most offensive of racial epithets on the whiteboard attached to the door of an African-American first-year student. Both of these acts were done in a way that offered the offenders some sense of concealment and no one has come forward to take responsibility for either act. These facts attest to the cowardly nature of the conduct.”
Coleman tells Yahoo Lifestyle of the latest victim, “I hope that they know that the Paint It Black Project and all of its collective organizers support them and are seeking to make a change on campus for them and every student of color.”
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