Flyers are a sign of racism in Ames population

On November 26, only one day before an emergency City Council meeting called “The Changing Cultural Face of Ames” was held, a number of racist flyers surfaced around the ISU campus and elsewhere in Ames. The flyers were delivered at a critical time for the city, as citizens try to maintain a healthy watchfulness against a crime wave, while resisting the stereotyping and racial profiling that is often an inevitable consequence of such vigilance. The council meeting was held in response to a number of rumors about Section 8 (federally subsidized low-income) housing in Ames and the alleged correlation between new community members and an increase in violent crime. Many have blamed African-Americans from Chicago for this development. While part of the meeting’s purpose was to set rumors straight about Section 8 housing, it also served as a community forum, where growing racism in Ames was addressed. The appearance of these flyers so near the time of the meeting is unlikely to be a coincidence. On campus and in Slater, copies of handwritten notes were found saying “Vote for Edwards, not the B**** or the N*****. Vote for the White man.” They were signed by a local man, and have no connection whatsoever to the Edwards campaign. The local man’s name was not released, which has surprised some. While it may have simply been for protection, a double standard could also be at play. “Many times when people of color do things, it makes the front page, and the names are certainly there,” said Carlie Tartakov, immediate past president of IA-NAME (National Association for Multicultural Education). On the same day, additional flyers were found in the Cub Foods parking lot in Ames, depicting a KKK member with the text, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” In both cases, the police were notified, although no legal action could be taken. While Ames prides itself on being an open, accepting community, many find it appalling that it takes only a small controversy to incite such vicious hate speech. However, community members are advised to view the flyers in the context of an enduring problem, one that persists within the underlying discomfort towards increased urbanization of Ames. Tartakov said that such flyers, while repulsive, provide citizens with an opportunity to address the problem. Although they may not have surfaced if it weren’t for other controversies in Ames, they are still a symptom of a problem that has long been under the local radar. “There are racists in all communities of a racialized society,” Tartakov said. “This shouldn’t surprise us, but it should make us less complacent about it. I think it has made people want to do something, and rightly so. People can’t look at such blatant remarks as if they are an aberration, though. We need to realize that these are disgusting comments, but they are not new.” She said that there have been other troubling epithets on campus and in the city that have not received as much attention, claiming that people have always wanted to exhibit their frustrations and anger toward society. The city council meeting has sparked some meaningful dialogue, but more talk is necessary before racism in Ames has been adequately addressed. Until people look beyond the sensational aspects of race, such as offensive flyers, to the more subtle and ongoing challenges associated with it, racism in Ames will not be adequately defused. Prejudice, especially a prejudice as prevalent and ancient as racism, has roots much deeper than the biases of a vocal few. As Tartakov said, “We haven’t dealt with the issue in ways that can move us ahead in society. Something like the KKK isn’t as harmful as people in positions of power and privilege who make policies that keep people from a satisfying, quality experience of life. It’s subtler and can do much more damage than people shouting epithets. Concentrate on those people, and we’ll change things.”