The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Opinion | YAF’s stunning ignorance highlights need for DEI

A poster recently displayed around campus by Iowa Young Americans for Freedom is both shockingly ignorant and a call to rethink the way we teach history.
Ayrton Breckenridge
A Young Americans for Freedom banner sits in the Iowa Memorial Union during a lecture organized by the University of Iowa Chapter of YAF for Matt Walsh’s “What Is a Woman?” documentary on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Prior to the lecture, progressive students called for the lecture to be suspended because of Walsh’s transphobic remarks and organized protests.

I saw a photo on the social media network YikYak on Tuesday that showed a Young Americans for Freedom poster advertising one of the conservative student group’s upcoming speaker events on the University of Iowa campus.

The text on the poster, which were put up across Iowa City, says that diversity, equity, and inclusion is “the real slavery.” The poster is advertising the YAF lecture of Vince Everett Ellison on Feb. 26 in the Iowa Memorial Union.

I hate to give the fine folks at YAF the gratification of my being publicly offended; after all, I know that apathy and offending people are the sole goals and foundation of a great deal of conservative politics.

After years of witnessing increasingly impressive ignorance from the right, however, this poster might break new ground. At the foundation of a comparison as foolish as the one made by YAF is ignorance in its purest, most harmful form.

The way I see it, there are two possibilities here. Either the students at YAF genuinely believe slavery is comparable to DEI, or they want to take advantage of the horrors of slavery to promote their event. Either option would be a display of unfathomable benightedness.

Let’s examine what it looks like to be a victim of slavery versus a “victim” of DEI:

Enslaved people, often from birth to death, were considered the property of other human beings. They worked countless hours in horrible conditions and were beaten, raped, tortured, and murdered. Generation after generation experienced these atrocities. Half an entire nation started a war to keep their right to own slaves.

The intention of DEI is to offer essential historical and current social perspectives to students who may not have seen or understood them previously. With these new perspectives, DEI fosters the hope that we can collectively build a society and economy that is more just and equitable.

The pitfall of DEI for the folks at YAF is that it teaches them a truth that they don’t want to know. Instead of accepting that this nation that calls itself a “beacon of freedom” has been — and still is — unjust to a great deal of people, they would rather plug their ears and call anyone who disagrees with them “woke.” To YAF, learning a hard truth is equivalent to being owned as property. To people who have only ever been favored by the system, equality feels like oppression.

If nothing else, this demonstrates an even greater need for DEI. If you can receive an education and still believe the experiences of enslaved people are similar to people’s experiences under DEI on college campuses, then clearly you don’t fully grasp the important historical lessons and perspectives that DEI offers.

Not only is the comparison ridiculous, but notice the use of the word “real” as used on the poster. What implication is being made here? That slavery wasn’t real? That its effects were overstated? That it’s taken advantage of to push DEI? I can’t fathom a scenario where calling DEI “the real slavery” has any sort of legitimate basis.

People don’t even have to agree with the principles or practices of DEI to know that this comparison is completely baseless. Maybe you think DEI is unnecessary, but even then, how can you possibly compare the practices or effects of DEI to being owned as property?

If any member of YAF or anyone who supports their message can give me an empirical explanation as to how slavery and DEI are even remotely comparable, I invite you to submit a response letter to the email [email protected], and I would be happy to hear it.

If you can’t do that, try to get it through your head that whatever you feel about DEI, it does not compare to being legally considered 3/5ths of a human being.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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About the Contributors
Evan Weidl, Opinions Editor
Evan Weidl is a senior majoring in political science. He previously worked in the opinions section as a columnist.
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.