State of Racism: students reflect on discrimination

Mary-Kate Burkert

Martin Luther King Jr. is a recognizable name for many reasons; they range from his work as a clergyman, an activist and a peaceful leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement to his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech.

His efforts to end racial segregation and discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means make him a hero for many. Forty-four years after his assassination and the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the question of whether or not racism continues to exist remains pertinent.

In present society, discrimination can be seen in forms different from the past. A 2003 study conducted by the University of Chicago and MIT provided evidence of racial discrimination in employment. The study involved 5,000 fake resumes and found that 10 percent of those featuring “Caucasian-sounding” names were called back compared to just 6.7 percent of those featuring “black-sounding” names. In addition, resumes featuring names such as Tamika and Aisha were called back just 5 percent and 2 percent of the time. The skill level of the imaginary black candidates had no impact on callback rates, according to the study.

“Confusion about what constitutes as racist behavior, whether it is discrimination or prejudicial issues can make conversations about racism unclear and unproductive,” said Kevin Duy Vo, a Vietnamese-American and sophomore in pre-graphic design.

In regards to racism and Iowa State University, the non-discrimination and affirmative action statement, signed by former university President Gregory Geoffroy, states, “The goal is to provide a non-discriminatory work environment, a non-discriminatory living and learning environment and a non-discriminatory environment for visitors to the campus.”

The statement went on to say that Iowa State’s commitment to non-discrimination and affirmative action is a top priority and all university-sponsored programs, activities and anything conducted in cooperation with the university will adhere to such.

“I believe it is human nature to stereotype,” said Zoey Cawiezell, a Caucasian student and sophomore in environmental science. “For example, most people automatically think when they see a big man of color on campus, he is an athlete, and this isn’t always correct.”

Katie Henry, a student that is both Caucasian and African American, grew up in a predominantly white community and said she has never experienced racial discrimination.

“I don’t feel affected by racism at all, and this includes never experiencing it on campus either. I am sure it continues to exist though,” Henry said. 

Like Henry, Julio Espada, an Hispanic and senior in logistics and supply chain management, has not been affected by racial discrimination on campus.

“I’d say Iowa State does a good job of not discriminating against students of color,” Espada said. “Being a super senior, I have experienced a lot of different situations with a lot of different kinds of people and haven’t felt discriminated.”

Unlike Espada, Paris Tindrell, senior in marketing and president of Black Student Alliance, said she has dealt with racism. In regards to racial discrimination on campus, Tindrell suggested it stems from the majority of students coming from small towns in Iowa and not having much contact with individuals of other races.

“I believe all they know about other races is what is read and portrayed on television,” Tindrell said. “I have actually had multiple friends tell me that they have been called the n-word on campus or here in Ames.”

In extension to what Tindrell said, Aja Holmes, president of the Black Graduate Student Association, said racism exists heavily today.

“I am triggered daily by racism,” Holmes said. “Being a woman of color, racism affects me when I am not even greeted as I walk into a store, being passed up while waiting in the line at the butcher counter, being pulled over constantly because I am ‘driving while black,’ by being denied service while in a restaurant with my family, all things that have happen to me or my friends of color here in Ames.”

Holmes believes racism is present both at Iowa State and in society in the form of privilege, whether it is white privilege or gender privilege.

“It is scary that people think just because we have an African American, president that racism is over,” Holmes said. “That is so far from the truth; I believe this country has just hit the tip of the iceberg when addressing racism. Eradicating racism is all of our collective responsibilities as human beings, and as cyclones we need to celebrate our unity in diversity.”