On Sunday, white supremacist propaganda similar to that found multiple times last fall on Iowa State University’s campus was found on a yard sign for Monic Behnken, one of four Ames school board candidates running for three open seats in the Sept. 12 election, whose campaign has focused on bringing more awareness of diversity problems to the board and school district.
A sticker on the sign (pictured above) featured the same neo-Nazi symbol resembling a swastika and read, “ARE YOU SICK OF (((BANKERS))) (((BIASED MEDIA))) (((POL. ESTABLISHMENT)))???” with a link to TheRightStuff.biz, a white supremacist website. The triple parentheses, or “echoes,” are used by supremacists and anti-Semites to target Jews.
In a Facebook post Sunday, Behnken addressed the sticker, explaining that her husband spotted it on his way to a campaign event, and that she notified police about it. “To be absolutely honest, I cried,” she wrote. “I wept because my children were in the car and had to see that. I wept for our beautiful city that has to host this hatred. I wept for our community’s children who are still being asked to bear the burdens of the past.” (Read the message in full at the bottom of this post.)
Behnken’s post referenced the “racist flyers at ISU” last fall, apparently by the same group. They first appeared shortly before the presidential election, warning that whites would soon become a minority in the United States — eliciting a bizarre response from then-ISU President Steven Leath, who falsely suggested they weren’t white supremacist in nature because they didn’t violate the First Amendment. (Behnken is on the 21-member search committee currently seeking a successor to Leath, who left for Auburn under the cloud of his Planegate scandal.)
After the election, posters promoting the idea that miscegenation causes cultural degeneracy appeared around campus, with local media outlets failing to note that the image on them was taken from a Nazi Germany propaganda poster from the 1930s.
On Monday, the Ames Tribune reported on the sticker, referring to it as white supremacist. The Iowa State Daily student newspaper covered the sticker as well, but, echoing Leath’s language last fall and continuing its editorial decision to avoid calling the propaganda white supremacist despite its unambiguous nature, reported that the sticker included a “white heritage” message. “White heritage” is coded language used by white supremacists in an effort to validate their racist ideology and make it appear more tenable.
Behnken is an African American and assistant professor of sociology at ISU whose campaign has received national attention from Politico in a story about women running for public office.
Here’s the full text of the message Behnken posted on Facebook Sunday:
I will address this only once:
On my way to a campaign event, my husband noticed that one of my campaign signs had been defaced with a white supremacist sticker by the same group that posted racist flyers at ISU. To be absolutely honest, I cried. I wept because my children were in the car and had to see that. I wept for our beautiful city that has to host this hatred. I wept for our community’s children who are still being asked to bear the burdens of the past.
Our friends removed the sticker and notified the police.
I took a deep breath, composed myself, and attended a campaign event where I shared my message about diversity, dialogue, and data with an amazing group of people.
While I may not have earned this person’s respect, I certainly haven’t earned their disrespect. I reject the attempt to reduce my accomplishments, expertise, and passion down to my blackness. I am not required to pick up their baggage and take it along with me on my journey.
My message today is the same as it was yesterday, and will be the same tomorrow. We owe our children a moral duty to make the world a better place for them. That means having a school board that welcomes diverse perspectives, facilitates honest communication with the community, and uses data-driven evidence-based practices to approach challenges. I am on a mission to fight for our children’s futures.
I will not be moved.