David E. Drake
- Dr. David E. Drake is a psychiatrist from Iowa.
When Iowans go to the polls on June 7 for the party primaries, my own Iowa House District 36 will see six Democratic candidates running for the seat opened by the retirement of Jo Oldson.
Two of the six candidates are people of color. Jaylen Cavil is African American and Gabriel De La Cerda is Latino. Shannon Henson is the only woman. I reviewed the candidates’ websites (De La Cerda had none) and found that the candidates all seemed well qualified and motivated to serve.
While talking to local voters on the list, a professional white man told me that he doesn’t support Cavil because Cavil isn’t doing things the right way. I told the white voter that I would most likely support Cavil. I planned to meet Cavil for a meal to find out more.
I know from direct experience as past president of a national nonprofit organization focused on the health aspects of climate change and nuclear weapons that diversity, equity, and inclusion make a difference. In my last year as president, four of our officers were white, straight doctors. Now our new officers include two prominent women in the fields of public health; one is African American and the other has roots in India, while our board has younger voices and includes more women and people of color. Our conversation is now broader and more inclusive than it has ever been in our organization. We now have voices that we have not heard or listened to.
Cavil was a leader of the metro area’s black liberation movement and was twice arrested (but never convicted of anything) during protests at the Iowa Capitol. Cavil’s court sign features a megaphone and his poster features a black fist in the air. This background and some of the videos I watched made me expect a divisive candidate. Instead, I met a 25-year-old Des Moines native who I found friendly and warm. Cavil, a graduate of the University of Kansas after studying political science and journalism, has a sense of humor, including about himself, although it was clear that he can be passionate and that he can raise his voice when the need arises to get attention and support an issue.
Cavil talked about the importance of feeling comfortable with the uncomfortable. He said: “I want to make a difference – to empower marginalized people – that’s how we improve our society as a whole.” He explained why diversity of voices is important in our legislative bodies: there is a different lived experience, and we can have a broader conversation about issues after hearing from those affected. Cavil explained how he would organize people to come to the Capitol when bills are being discussed. He said he plans to keep people involved and engaged and sees himself as a coalition builder on issues such as climate.
I came away from our meal feeling that with Cavil, the residents of Des Moines can assess a candidate who will speak up and bring a story and experience to the table that we need to hear. We need a legislature and city councils that reflect what Iowans look like and think broadly. We can only do this by supporting more women, more Indigenous people, and more people of color in the halls of decision-making.
As I learned at the national nonprofit last year, the voices of those who have been underrepresented and rarely heard are needed more than ever where laws are passed and decisions affecting our lives. are taken.
Let’s learn to listen, especially when we are uncomfortable.
Dr. David E. Drake is a psychiatrist from Iowa. Contact: [email protected]