The only thing more disgusting than the blatant racism and egregious disregard for students of color at the University of Missouri, are the comments claiming to be “freedom of speech” tarnishing the issues that minority student alliances have been bringing to light. I am proud to say that the Mizzou students are challenging injustice and drawing attention to the racist history and traditions of UM. According to graduate student Danielle Walker, racism and prejudice has played a major part in the campus culture of Mizzou since 1950. As a black student taking a casual stroll down any particular area on the campus, they have to be prepared to be called the “n word” or any other racial slander. Unfortunately, these are racial normality’s that black and brown students face on a daily basis, but campus officials have yet to acknowledge that these cases are indeed hate crimes.
Recently, President of the university, Tim Wolfe and Columbia campus chancellor, Bowen Loftin announced they will step down in the face of protests over their handling of racism on campus. Although the students have not been blaming these officials for the racial slurs and attacks on campus, they do hold them accountable for their lack of concern and action towards these very serious issues. Students are complaining that officials continue to ignore and/or not respond as effectively as they should. Recently, a swastika was drawn with feces in a dorm room predominantly occupied by students of color; an incident that has yet to have any repercussions and is currently still under investigation. These issues are more than just a cry for help or an attempt to receive attention. They are real issues that people of color face everyday in a society that enables racism, but refuses to admit that it still exists.
Although Mizzou has garnered a massive amount of attention and media recognition, there has been even more scrutiny and negative opinion about the motive behind the movement. In an interview with Fox Business Network, Donald Trump called the protests at UM “disgusting” and “disgraceful,” naming the two officials who stepped down from their positions as “weak, ineffective people.”
Amid the negative backlash from other students in disagreement with the protests, the students who support the movement are quite appreciative of Wolfe’s commitment; recognizing that although he was not the cause of racism on campus, his resignation will improve the campus’ dynamics and make a major statement on the problematic oppression that is continuously occurring. In an interview with MSNBC, the university’s student body president, Payton Head reflected on an incident where he was called the “n word,” but his complaints exceeded far beyond his personal issues. He complains that students of color are marginalized, isolated, and mistreated academically and socially.
“Our campus culture right now is hurting…We need to be able to have adequate resources to tend to the students’ mental and emotional progress. I think a lot of that starts with the efforts that need to be taken now to create a more inclusive campus. That’s talking about, who we are hiring to represent our faculty. What spaces do we offer, on campus, for marginalized students to feel welcome on this campus? What do our recruitment methods look like? But more importantly, what do our retention methods look like? These are some of the conversations that have to start at UM.”
Both powerful and painful, it is important for students on campuses all over to recognize some of these issues at-large across the nation. UM is certainly shedding light on an issue that is not only problematic in the school system, but is an ongoing matter that we face nationally in all facets of the professional world. On-campus organizational leaders including graduate student Jonathan Butler organized a hunger strike to prompt the resignation of the university’s president. Even the UM football team has taken a role in the protests, with the support of the head coach, by refusing to play until change is made.
Although issues like these are omnipresent among major corporate companies, Ivy League colleges and across the globe, it is important to continue to acknowledge systematic oppression in America by taking a stand to abolish it. Not only are these students courageous, but they are heroes. Congratulations to the Mizzou students and students all over the country fighting for equality. The revolution will not go unnoticed.