Black On Campus: How Mizzou’s Student Body Helped Empower The Nations Youth [Editorial]
Have you ever seen Justin Simien movie Dear White People? It’s a fictional film on what it’s like being Black in a white space aka Black on campus at a PWI. Something that you could really only understand if you had firsthand experienced. That is until this past week.
The student’s at University of Missouri opened up the flood gates after boldly protesting and unapologetically making demands for equality, justice and education that does not denigrate our identities.
Okay so here’s a rundown on what’s taken place at Mizzou and how the events on campus has trickled down to students at others
What’s Happening at the School…
Since the new school year kicked off several racist incidents had occurred. In September, Peyton Head, a senior and the president of Missouri Students Association, said he was called racial slurs as he walked near campus. That incident was followed by one on October 5 when members of the Legion of Black Collegians were called the N-word while rehearsing for homecoming festivities. Three weeks later, on October 24, a swastika was drawn with human feces at a university residence hall.
At first the school was muted in its response. Then on October 10th, members of Concerned Student 1950, a student group named for the year the first black graduate student was admitted to the university, blocked Tim Wolfe’s (the school president) car as it moved through a homecoming parade. The Columbia Missourian newspaper reported:
“Wolfe did not respond to the group’s concerns while he was in the car. His driver revved the convertible’s engine, and the car bumped into Jonathan Butler, a graduate student who is one of the group’s members.”
Wolfe reportedly never got out of the car.
A week later, Wolfe met with members of the group but did not apologize and admit that “racism did exist on the campus” until November 6th.
On November 2nd however Jonathan Butler had begun a hunger strike (taking a page out of Ghandi book) stating he would continue the strike until Wolfe resigned or he (Butler) dies. Butler was being supported by Concerned Student 1950 who was also pushing for the removal of Tim Wolfe from office. Wolfe had until Monday refused to step down.
32 members of the Missouri Tigers football team also went on strike in support of Butler, the football team did not practice and according to Coach Pinkel, his players din’t plan to return to practice until Butler eats again.
— John Gibson III (@thatgibsonkid) November 8, 2015
The fall of Tim Wolfe…
Wolfe met with Butler last Friday, five days after the hunger strike began, and apologized in a statement.
“I regret my reaction at the MU Homecoming Parade when the Concerned Student 1950 group approached my car. I am sorry, and my apology is long overdue. My behavior seemed like I did not care. That was not my intention. I was caught off guard in that moment. Nonetheless, had I gotten out of the car to acknowledge the students and talk with them perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
On Friday night a group of University of Missouri students approached the school’s president, Tim Wolfe, outside of a fundraiser at a performing arts center he had attended. They asked him to give his definition of systematic oppression in which he replied:
“I will give you an answer, and I’m sure it will be a wrong answer. Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success.”
One student responded “Did you just blame us for systematic oppression, Tim Wolfe? Did you just blame black students?” On Sunday, Wolfe responded: “We want to find the best way to get everyone around the table and create the safe space for a meaningful conversation that promotes change. We will share next steps as soon as they are confirmed.” Everything culminated in Monday’s resignation. The Affects… College students around the country are showing their support for protesters at the University of Missouri. The student group at Ithaca College, People of Color, made headlines this week for leading over a 1,000 students, faculty and staff in a walkout on Wednesday demanding the resignation of their own president, Tom Rochon, for his poor judgment and lack of urgency around incidents of racism on their campus. On Monday students at Yale University interrupted a panel on free speech to call attention to students’ recent, racist Halloween costumes. Last year at Yale, swastikas were drawn on old campus halls and Sigma Alpha Epsilon was recently accused of denying Hispanic and Black women entrance into a Halloween party. That same week, an email was sent out by Yale Dean Burgwell Howard and Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee asking students to refrain from wearing insensitive costumes like blackface during Halloween. There are also rallies, walkouts and statements of support from colleges all over the country including: University of Colorado-Denver, Smith College, University of Michigan, Cornell University, Emory University, University of Wisconsin, Syracuse University, University of Maryland at College Park and Baltimore County, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Goucher College, American University, Howard University, Claremont McKenna University, New York University and George Mason University. Students across the country have also been sharing their experience of being a black face in a white place on social media with the hashtag #BlackOnCampus. But even peaceful movements are met with violent resistance… According to the Daily Beast, 19-year-old Hunter Park, a student at the Missouri University of Science and Technology made death threats against the black #MIZZOU student. Using used “Yik Yak”, a popular social media platform among college students, to spread the threats. A Boone County Judge denied his original $4,500 bail, but Park has not been formally charged. At Howard University the campus is currently on high alert after someone sent a death threat to threatening to kill Black students expressing solidarity with the Mizzou cause. The school’s president issued a letter saying that the school has beefed up its security and is encouraging students to report any unusual or alarming activity.
Statement concerning threat pic.twitter.com/S1UvaSf6PO
— Howard University (@HowardU) November 12, 2015
We will keep you up to date as the story continues to develop.