Student protestors of color at Yale have been fighting the good fight with Down, a zine for students of color by students of color that addresses institutional racism on campus. Although Down (which stands for Defending Our World Now) started publishing before the White Girls Only frat party that allegedly took place at Yale last Halloween, the incident just goes to show why Down is so necessary: to combat decades of unaddressed racism at the university.
Yale, University of Missouri, and Ithaca College have all been the sites of similar racial issues. According to The New York Times, on November 17, Yale president Peter Salovey promised a “‘prominent university center’ for studies of race and ethnicity, and the addition of four faculty positions.” It’s a start.
The Fader interviewed sophomore and founding Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Spenst, who has been the fearless leader of the zine since her second semester freshman year. Of the frat party, Spenst says “People don't understand what these issues are at the root. It's not about disagreements, it's not about an email, it's not about a party, even. It's about these structural issues that make it so that people can dismiss the humanity of people of color in very clear ways. A lot of people lack the language, the understanding to talk about that, and that's a failure of our education system that race isn’t discussed.”
You probably have a few Facebook friends that consistently post long statuses about social justice. According to Spenst, this used to be the case at Yale: a few of the same people were taking to Facebook to talk about racism. But then, everyone was doing it. “I felt like, in the zine, it was a really important moment to highlight what happens on social media,” Spenst said.
It’s awesome that Down exists now to address problems that have been silenced for years at Yale. These amazing students are putting together the zine on top of a back-breaking workload plus campus jobs, never mind having time to sleep and eat. I’m sure they’ll hold Salovey to his promises. Kudos to them. Down has gotten everyone at Yale talking about race, which is what has to happen before things change.
Read Down at DownAtYale.com.
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Madeline Raynor is a New York City-based writer. She is a Blog Editor at BUST. She has written for Splitsider, The Billfold, Death and Taxes, Mashable, Indiewire, and Time Out New York. She loves all things Tina Fey. Word to the wise: her first name is pronounced with a long “i,” like the red-haired girl from France. Follow her on Twitter @madelineraynor_.