Trembling bodies. Quivering lips. Tear-stained cheeks. This is what racism looks like, and it is here at Iowa State.

As I sat with my white skin, blue eyes and blond hair, I knew that I could not honestly say I understood how it feels to be a minority group living in the United States. I knew I could not tell the 12 Asian-American students sitting around me I understood how it feels to hear a racial slur directed at me or my ethnicity.

But as I sat Monday afternoon listening to fellow students’ stories, I felt it — their pain, their anger, their sadness. Most importantly, I felt their passion to right the wrongs done to them and every other person ever victimized by racism. I began to understand.

Monday’s meeting was composed of 12 Asian-American students, one Caucasian student and one African-American student. The students were joined by the Iowa State Daily’s Editor-in-Chief Jake Lovett, the Daily’s editorial adviser Mark Witherspoon, Vice President of Student Affairs Tom Hill and myself.

The students came forward to express their disappointment in the Daily for publishing two "Just Sayin" comments referring to a “squintey” in last Tuesday’s paper. The uproar over the publication of the comments has ignited discussions on racism at Iowa State and has caused the Daily to stop publishing "Just Sayin" comments.

The two "Just Sayin" comments in question, like all other comments, were submitted by the public and chosen by employees in the Daily’s advertising department. The employees said they thought the two mentions of “squintey” referred to ground squirrels.

“Squinny” is what some people in Des Moines and nearby areas call ground squirrels, according to "Western Folklore," a book by Gary N. Underwood.

However, many in the ISU community said the term “squintey” can have a much more sinister meaning — one that demonstrates and could possibly reinforce racism against Asians and Asian-Americans.

“We are expressing our opinion now because this is affecting us,” said Ruth Yang, open-option junior. “This kind of racism and ignorance will build up.”

Ruth’s sister Minah Yang, senior in finance, said she did not want to believe that someone in the ISU community could write something so racially insensitive and how the Daily could publish those comments.

“Even if you were talking about a ground squirrel, why would you publish it?” Minah asked. “If you could see that it could offend someone, then the Daily shouldn’t publish the comments.”

Minah described how she grew up hating herself because she was not white. She said she used to laugh along when other children made jokes about Asians or Asian-Americans. However, she said she is done being passive about racism.

“We need to think about the future. I don’t want [future generations] to have to deal with this stuff,” Minah said. “Even though this is hard and there may be backlash from the community, I know that doing this is a step further in improving the environment and the community for the future.”

Ruth added that after two years at Iowa State, she still does not feel like she belongs. With water glistening in her eyes, she said she tries to ignore racism, but it still makes her question her abilities.

“It makes me doubt myself — like I can’t make it here,” Ruth said. “I’m just trying to make Iowa State my adventure.”

Ruth and Minah’s cousin, Elizabeth Yang, sophomore in pre-business, said she has told teachers about racism but they did not do anything about it.

“They boost up our excitement, and then say 'no,’” Elizabeth said. “You can say things, but are you really going to do it? I believe it when I see it in my hands — see it with my own eyes.”

Chelsea Ruede, senior in anthropology, is a Caucasian student from New York City. She explained how she came to Iowa State because she thought the state of Iowa was progressive due to the fact that it was the first state to allow interracial marriages. However, she said her opinion has changed.

“After four years, I would not recommend Iowa State to Caucasian students or any other students,” Ruede said. “What you see here is the butt of America. It’s like you’re walking back 40 years.”

Ruede said she has seen the Asian-American student population at Iowa State double since she came to the university. However, she said Iowa State has done nothing to adapt to that change. She also alluded to the fact that the Iowa Board of Regents elected another Caucasian president as the president of Iowa State.

At that point, Hill, who said at the beginning of the meeting that he was just there to listen, broke his silence. He said students should not assume that President Steven Leath and other administrators do not care about multicultural students and racism.

“We do not condone this kind of behavior,” Hill said in regard to the "Just Sayin" comments. “What happened is not acceptable.”

Hill went on to say that students should not hesitate to contact him when they have problems, with racism or anything else. He said ISU faculty and staff members are in their positions to help students or to direct them to someone who can help them.

“[Racism] should not be a part of this educational experience,” Hill said. “Don’t think you are supposed to be going through this to make you tough.”

Several students at the meeting brought up the Facebook page “Iowa State University Memes.” The page features several racist memes, or satirical images with text, that are directed toward Iowa State’s Asian and Asian-American community.

Hill said he and other administrators are trying to shut down the page because not only is it a violation of Iowa State’s trademark but it is also providing people a “platform to be a coward” and to be racist.

“This is an issue we have to deal with,” Hill said about shutting down the page. “I’m not going to be satisfied until it’s done.”

Elizabeth spoke on behalf of the other students in the room when she listed the four things she hopes to occur to decrease and ultimately end racism at Iowa State.

First, she said Iowa State and the Daily need to operate in accordance to their mission statements, which both relate to empowering and educating the ISU community on racial issues and diversity. Second, she said the Daily should start publishing a multicultural column. Third, she said she wants ISU community members to stop stereotyping others.

“If we can stop it at Iowa State, it will continue to bigger communities,” Elizabeth said. “It can happen — just everyone has to be on board.”

The final change Elizabeth said she wanted was for students to not be afraid to express their voices.

“Each of these things go hand-in-hand,” Minah said. “Hopefully, the end result is we’ll have a really good community to live in and will not have a problem saying, ‘Go to Iowa State.’”

(21) comments

Brown4Campustown
Trevor Brown

Racism is wrong, no questions asked, and racist people deserve to be ten fold as miserable as those their racism is directed towards.

Now..To what end do we limit free speech, as hateful and crude as it may be? One of the greatest things about the United States is quite possibly also one of the most uncomfortable to accept. People can pretty much say whatever they want provided it doesn't threaten anybody else. People can hate, people can judge, people can be racist. That is their right in this country.

Where we messed up on this one is when the Daily allowed something like this to go to print and didn't put names behind the 'Just Sayin' quotes, allowing those who submitted them to hide behind the publication therefore making the entity look bad instead of those who really produced this garbage.

If people want to be racist, fine. Let them. But you better make sure everyone knows exactly who those hateful words are coming from, spread the word, and let them know exactly how you feel about it. That's the Iowa State I've witnessed for the most part over the past four years, where publicly racist jerks are called out on saying stuff like this until the point where they are humiliated enough to knock it off, grow up, or leave.

Mr_Winkel
Justin Winkel

As much as I myself have experienced this kind of racism here at ISU, I feel like "stepping back 40 years" is a huge exaggeration. I'm an Asian American, I was adopted into an Eastern Iowa family and have gone to school here in Iowa my entire life. As much as people want to say it's bad, going back over 40 years brings up images of words like "gook" "tojo" or "zipper head". And comparing that kind of behavior to now is like night and day. I understand that it is bad, and that ISU promotes diversity, but honestly you can't stomp out some of what has been sewn into the up bringing of most of these people. You can try and teach them and try to open their minds but at the end of the day that's only going half way until they want to believe in equality.

But I find it sad that racism seems to be given a higher seat on terms of what prejudices are considered off limits. This same type of hate speech and stereotyping has been present in passed articles I've read, and sometimes it's only a reply to an opinion column via another opinion column to counter balance to some of these cases. Diversity in all senses and levels must be taken if you really want to preach it. It's an all or nothing kind of situation in my eyes, either 100% pro diversity with full effort on all fronts, or it might as well be none at all.

I will say that prompting more over watch for Just Saying, and the Daily in general is a great move but Trevor also brings up a good point of free speech. This is a delicate line to walk and either side poses a ton of dangers for ISU, The Iowa State Daily, and the people who submit to them.

alexwes
Alex Wesenberg

Dear Iowa State Daily,

Next time you write an article about how racism is alive and well at Iowa State, you should choose a person who is not, in fact, a racist. Just sayin'

https://twitter.com/#!/ChelseaRuede/status/147734187590422528

https://twitter.com/#!/ChelseaRuede/status/140682056941309953

Characterizing all Caucasian people as embarrassing and homophobic. Nice champion of anti-racism there.

Also characterizing people in Iowa as racist, and Iowa as "the butt" of America sounds just as bad as characterizing people of a certain race as all the same way.

Sincerely,

Alex

CycloneSteve
Steve Chapman

I didn't read the articles in question but I can say I've never heard “squintey” used as a racial slur. I guess it's good that I'm not an editor because I would have let it thru as well.

As to the solutions, publishing a multicultural column will just highlight how people are different.

Also, she wants ISU community members to stop stereotyping others. That is crazy. Stereotyping might make people uncomfortable, but it's what keeps you alive. You're walking down the street & you see a police officer (or a guy in gang colors) and in Iowa you assume you're safe. That's a stereotype! In a third world country that assumption might get you kidnaped, robbed, raped or killed.

kenyon Murphy
Kenyon Murphy

I think all of this is just a misunderstanding about squinnies, or squinty. I really have never heard of squinnie or squinty as using to called squirrel. But again i am from the city and we called them chipmunks. I could see how this could be offensive to the asian. I am also asian and people had called me squinnie eyes, or your eyes are squinty. Racism? probably not, but it sure is pretty offensive. But steve, you are right about stereo typing people, we all do it no matter what race you are

Poli_CY guy
Colton Nebel

It's so easy to cry racism just to get attention. I've gone here 2 years and have never seen any sort of racism meant to be harmful. It's called a joke people make them get over it there's a reason they mentioned freedom of speech in the Constitution, because people say things that will offend others. I just hate how something that could be offensive is turned into such a big deal all these people obviously just wanted their name in the paper without regard to this university's prestige. I wish people would just grow up

Maritza
Maritza Gonzalez

Of course our natural way of functioning leads to stereotyping, but stereotyping is just the first step. We all know what goes next. Europeans stereotyped Africans and that's where scientific racism comes in. As you have all explained, it is freedom of speech, but we also have the freedom of speech to let people know how it makes some people feel. It can be very offensive.

Whether or not "squintey" was used as a racial slur, it can be offensive. It depends on people's perspective. Of course because there are very few racial slurs against the majority of the population, it would be difficult to understand how it feels to be potentially anonymously verbally attacked. The truth will always be objective. I invite any of you that are against these article's views to read the related articles and read the "Just Sayin'' comment as if you were Asian and to try and read it as if you were Asian and verbally bullied because of your race.

Words hurt. Yeah, I agree. You have all the freedom in the world to talk and say what you think, but we, minorities, have the right to accuse of using racial slurs, whether it's a joke or not.

P.S. Colton, maybe you've never seen racism because you've only hung out with Caucasian Americans and if you've hung out with Asian Americans or Hispanics, you've never met them well enough to know if it bothers them. Trust me, being called Mexican is no joke to me.

jlaudner
Jonathon Laudner

I think the Daily is really mishandling this situation. All that happened was an editor or two didn't catch something or misunderstood the meaning of a word. Right? Wrong. The person who chooses the nine comments to be posted in the Just Sayin' column thought it would be funny to see the rumble this might cause. Well, it did cause a rumble and now here's the consequences. I think what needs to happen, is the Daily needs to assume some responsibility, fire someone, (maybe the person who chooses the comments, or any of the editors who didn't catch it) and then make the people who submit a just sayin' have an iastate.edu email address and if they try to post a crude or insulting comment, their email address is blocked. Simple solution and now you don't have to get rid of the section, which I and many other students find as the only reason we pick up the paper in the first place.

seanlang
Sean Lang

People who claim they've never seen or heard racism at Iowa State are liars, ignorant, or a racism themselves. I've lost count of how many stupid, hateful and racists comments, jokes or sentiments I've overheard or had spoken directly to me (because I'm white and from Iowa/midwest I'll agree?). Racist "jokes" aren't just jokes. That's the biggest bullsh*t excuse I've ever heard. Rarely does a person tell such jokes when they themselves are the minority. And when talking to my friends, rarely (even though he/she will not say it, just in order to not make waves) does a minority think the joke is funny or appropriate. It hurts me when my best friend tells me he could never be comfortable around certain people in class, or make friends with more people because of the jokes they tell, but social norms dictate he "tough" it out, because they're "just jokes." I think visible minorities at Iowa State have all the right in the world to cry racism about this because a certain segment of white people have for too long been protected in their racist viewpoints by the sentiment of "it's just a joke."

alexwes
Alex Wesenberg

Sean,

I don't think anyone is claiming that they haven't heard racial epithets, but does that make Iowa State a completely racist school, or terrible place to go like some people are making it out to be? Every bushel has a few bad apples as they say, but I think people are using those bad apples to paint a bad picture of the University as a whole (hey there's that whole misrepresenting a group of people based on stereotypes thing most people claim to hate so much), and saying that they would go somewhere else given the chance?

Maybe their experiences are out of the norm, because in my classes I would say 99.9% of the people I've met have been nothing but tolerant. Those 0.01% were an outlier, and although hurtful, should be taken with a grain of salt and should not misrepresent the community as a whole. I can count the number of times classmates or group members have used racial slurs or made race based jokes while at ISU on one hand. And I'm a senior who's been going here for four year.

Unfortunately, you will find racial discrimination anywhere in the country, and although I wish I could claim Iowa State different, it isn't. The key here, as I've said countless times before, is not to misrepresent a few bad incidents with the opinion of the general population.

sjt
Sarah Timmons

Everyone go listen to the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from the musical Avenue Q.

The person who thinks ISU and Iowa are so terrible should just go back to where she came from if she doesn't like it here and it's really that awful. Yeesh. Thanks for calling the reporter on that, Alex.

I was born and raised in Iowa and most of my extended family is from the midwest, and if I was the person editing the Just Sayin', I too would have innocently assumed that the submissions meant ground squirrel or chipmunk when they said "squintey". My grandpa's war with the ground squirrels/chipmunks/squinties tearing up his yard is actually a big joke in my family. In fact, when I was a kid, my cousins and I would write and perform little skits that were a comic portrayal of my grandpa and our uncles trying to keep Squintey from ruining Thanksgiving dinner. Seriously. I have video. It has nothing to do with race - it's really just a colloquial term for an animal.

I think what we had here was a cultural misunderstanding. Some people who didn't have this midwest (not sure of the exact regional prevalence, but we'll call it that) cultural experience of everyone they know referring to chipmunks as squinties saw the word used in a midwestern paper, probably staffed by a lot of midwesterners, and the comments were probably from a midwesterner, and those people decided that it was offensive because they were ignorant of the culture. It's like going to a certain part of Africa and being offended by a topless woman from a certain African tribe where that's the social norm. Basically one should consider the cultural context when deciding whether or not to be offended by something.

Really, it's just mutual ignorance. Some people have never heard of a squintey being a chipmunk. Some people (myself included) have never heard someone of Asian descent referred to as a squinty. Now we know, and that's what college is about - learning new things about other people and cultures.

I never thought to read the submissions from the perspective of a person of Asian descent who had been the victim of racist comments, and now having done that, I understand how that could touch a nerve. However, I hope that those who were offended can also consider the other perspective and understand that when a lot of midwesterners say squintey, it has nothing to do with Asians.

Obviously racism is bad and is still a problem, and we should do whatever we can to counteract it where it exists, but the Just Sayin' submissions weren't racist - it was just a simple case of misunderstanding. Someone made the Daily aware that the comments could be interpreted negatively, and the Daily apologized, which is the appropriate response. Hopefully people can accept the apology and move on to real cases of racism.


Mr. Genseric, if everybody you know is saying those things, I suggest you diversify your circle of friends. It will give you a more balanced perspective on reality.

65corsa
Anthony Hansen

I have to agree with Alex

(Alex Wesenberg posted at 2:24 am on Tue, Feb 28, 2012)

I see a racist complaining of racism, and and at the same time stereotyping Iowan's and calling out Caucasians as a group. Now I'm an offended Iowa white man, what did I do!

alexwes
Alex Wesenberg

I'm not sure who informed Chelsea that her Twitter was being used to show how much of a hypocrite she was about race issues , but she seems to have protected her tweets so only followers can view her Twitter now. No matter, the tweets have been saved for posterity. Hiding your true feelings so you can simply to stir things up, or win an argument isn't a good tactic:

http://i.imgur.com/24Gno.png

http://i.imgur.com/JVa46.png

kenyon Murphy
Kenyon Murphy

It is ironic that she actually wrote this article. they should have chosen another person to write about this.

alexwes
Alex Wesenberg

Just to clarify the author of the article isn't the one who made those tweets, it was a person interviewed about halfway through the article. It is ironic, given her stance on the situation and how vitriolic her comments were about Iowa State and our community, that she would tweet things like that though.

Sami Furnas
Sami Furnas

Alex,
I do not think it is appropriate to single out students on their personal social network site just because they gave their opinion while standing up against racism. Your energy should be focused some where else besides googling people you do not agree with in the newspaper. The real issue should be discussed, not small quotations which are obviously segments of an extensive interview. The author of the article chooses how each person appears to the audience. No one should be singled out for giving their opinions.

alexwes
Alex Wesenberg

Sami,

I didn't go out of my way to Google anybody. I was discussing the article with a friend about the interviewee's comments, and the aforementioned tweets were brought to my attention. I thought that racist comments on Twitter (whether they are against a minority or majority), for somebody who claimed to be so disgusted with the racism and lack of respect for other races by the Iowa State community and students to be quite hypocritical, and quite ironic. If Chelsea would have been more tactful, and truthful in her comments, I certainly would not have called her out as I did.

For example:

Instead of referring to Iowa State as "the butt of America" and like "going back 40 years" with respect to racial issues (which is a gross over exaggeration, not to mention extremely harmful to the community as a whole), you could easily say something like,

"I moved to Iowa thinking it would be more progressive since they were one of the first states to allow gay and interracial marriage, but unfortunately, like many other places in the country, Iowa still suffers from people who commit racial discrimination."

Although this is a negative statement, it is most certainly true, it brings attention to the issue in a more responsible matter without resorting to exaggerations and hyperbole. Resorting to name-calling does nothing but infuriate those of us who call Iowa State home and are grouped in as racists and bigots wrongfully. Unfortunately when you give statements to a newspaper, which they will most certainly either use to support their point, your comments will be used as an integral part of any argument involving the piece.

I'm certainly not trying to detract from open discussions about race, which is certainly important if we want to move together as a unified society. My main point is that over exaggerated comments do more harm than good in situations like this, and it was more irresponsible of the daily to post an article like this with quotes such as that, than it was to accidentally publish the word "squintey" (which references ground squirrels, and is not even a racial slur).

A simple apology to the offended parties, and a promise to uphold journalistic integrity would have been much better than a reactionary opinion piece with more hurtful comments in it.

I think the Daily posting articles with open discussions about race would be fine, but taking a simple cultural misunderstanding, having it being painted as a racial slur, and then writing an article which paints the community in an overly negative light does nothing to gain support for the cause of stopping racism. If anything people who would otherwise be completely on board with trying to stop racism and racially motivated discrimination tend to be pushed away by the dishonesty of the parties using a non-racial issue and trying to turn it into something race related.

kenyon Murphy
Kenyon Murphy

Your tweeter, your Facebook account, in the real life your employer can use it to fired that person for writing hateful comments the "H" "O" "M" "O" word or stuff like that she had it on her tweeter. I agree with alex on this 100 percent. its like saying that the white supremacy group speaking against racism. Isn't that kinda ironic?

m3fawner
Evan Williams

This article is ridiculous. Iowa State is racist because it has another white president! OH MAN! Let's overlook his qualifications and past abilities and judge an entire University because they selected a white president. And what kind of "journalist" fails to post the entire context of the "just sayin'" in question? Oh that's right, because that would show the possibility that it WASN'T A RACIST COMMENT. Walking 40 years into the past? Are you kidding me? Let's take a walk down memory lane, back to the 1960s where African-Americans were having ATTACK DOGS sent to interrupt their protests and FIRE HOSES used to stop their protests.

Clearly the people who read the "just sayin'" column fail to realize that there is no editing done to these as far as spelling and grammar are concerned. If that were true, I'd fire the entire editorial staff for misusing "your" and "you're" 15 times a week.

Ryan
Ryan North

I have a relevant example for this. Several years ago (aka Pre Y2K scare) I had a black cat that was born near Halloween, so my family decided to name her 'Spook'. It wasn't until years later we learned that was a racial slur towards African-Americans. Did we change the cats name? No because we weren't thinking about (or even knew about) the racial slur behind it, and therefor for myself and my family it was just a word with no hateful intentions behind it. In this case ignorance is a good thing. Should I be apologetic for naming my cat this? Again no I shouldn't because the word no longer held any racist power in our minds, and isn't that the goal of eliminating racism? If we want racism gone shouldn't we be happy when a word can be used without having it be associated with race. Now let's apply this to the current issue. Squinny was not a racial term, and it wasn't used in a racial way. Maybe all those who automatically took it as racist should look at themselves. Why are you constantly taking everything as racist?? You are keeping racism alive by thinking of everything as racist!! I am firmly against any sort of real racism, and if anyone here at ISU or anywhere else has suffered from racism I do truly feel for you. Racism is a horrible thing, and i really believe everyone should be judged for who they are as an individual and on nothing else. So If this was a case of someone actually making a racist remark I would back the daily 100%. However it isn't! this is a case of people taking an innocent term about squirrels and making it about race. This is hurting equality as much as anything else! I don't know how many more ways I can explain this, It wasn't about race until someone decided to make it about race. Now it has turned into a political mess. It is truly sad and ridiculous all at the same time. This article does nothing more than keep the hate alive. As other's has mentioned it is filled with more hate than the actual 'just sayin' in question. All the daily had to do was publish an editorial explaining what squinny actually meant, and this story would be done. For now I guess I should congratulate the daily for taking one more step towards FOX NEWS... After all as long as you can make inflammatory statements to get attention who needs to worry about content or facts. Good job and enjoy the total lack of respect you will now get from the majority of the student body who see this as an overblown fiasco!

didyoujustsaythat
Sam Gire

So if you go to other countries and you see a high level of dedication to their people and their county, it is a form of "patriotism", but when a white person makes a comment about a non-white person behaving in a stereotypical manner, or a comment about how great they think white people are (take a look at the Protestant Reformation. I'm not going to say anything about other races, but I am pretty impressed by a lot of things that white people have done) they are instantly branded a racist?

People are so quick to claim racism, when they need to understand that it's something a lot less sinister. People make fun of other people for every reason in the book. If you are Asian, and you do something stereotypically Asian, be prepared to be made fun of. It's stupid articles like this that give racism power. People like you make it a HUGE deal, and therefore it remains a huge deal. Racial slurs refer to stereotypes, so if you aren't a walking stereotype, then be secure enough to realize that it doesn't apply to you.

Morgan Freeman on how to get rid of racism: "Stop talking about it."

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