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Solidarity at Mizzou is something all universities can learn from

Across the country, universities have been seeing the protests happening at the University of Mizzou. Some of the African-American students at Mizzou came together in order to bring awarenss to the racisim and oppression they experience on their campus. These students created a group called Concerned Student 1950. According to the New York Times, the name was “in reference to the year the first black students were admitted to the University of Missouri.”

One could say that history has a way of repeating itself, and with the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, these students have started a nationwide revolution.

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Over the past two weeks, the African-Americans on campus have been protesting for equality and the removal of their university president, Tim Wolfe, who resigned Nov. 9 after one student’s hunger strike and the football team’s refusal to play in their upcoming game — which could’ve cost the school millions of dollars.

The resignation of Wolfe was a definite success for Concerned Student 1950. Before calling for Tim Wolfe’s resignation, the students protested at the university’s homecoming parade, and prevented Wolfe’s car from passing down the street. According to the Huffington Post, the students told Wolfe and the surrounding community of the racism and oppression on their campus from all the way back to 1839, when the school was originally founded, up till 2015. While the students shared this history, calling on the community and their president to hear them and support them, the surrounding crowd’s response was anything but supportive. The surrounding community members began yelling at the students to keep moving and spelling Mizzou while the students spoke about the racism on their campus. There was unbelievable silence from their president as he sat and watched his students be silenced and disrespected right before his eyes. To say their anger was over nothing would be absurd

The conversation and comments around this country as well as on this campus surrounding these protests have been extremely baffling to me, and one uniform idea that seems to be passing around is that the racism that they experienced wasn’t harsh enough for their response, and that the way you respond to racism is dependent upon the level of racism you’re receiving.

That remark confused me. There are not levels to racism — whether it is overt or covert, both are equally impactful, and to tell someone to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to racism because it wasn’t bold or outright is problematic.

Those students weren’t marching simply because they were targets of racial slurs or because they have experienced racism and oppression on their campus, but also because their university leader told them they were responsible for systematic oppression, and when they reached out to him for support, he told them that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

It is that big of a deal.

A lot of the students at Mizzou have taken to YikYak to express their dismay in the president’s resignation and the actions of Concerned Student 1950 for calling on the support of other faculty and staff resulting in classes being canceled.

I personally believe that a leader’s vibe, sentiments, responses, actions or the lack thereof affect the individuals who are under that leader. If your boss or your supervisor doesn’t give support, isn’t welcoming or fostering a sense of community, then that is the attitude that will spread throughout that environment. That is why Mizzou students felt outraged — because the leader of their university didn’t bring attention to this issue and he didn’t offer support. This is detrimental to the forming of community, and now a group of students who I’m sure were aware of this possibility are taking the brunt of the deal and are targets of blame, because people don’t see the issue with racism or understand the call for support to university officials, faculty and fellow students, and the need to voice these issues.

I have so much respect for the faculty and staff at Mizzou who saw this as a prominent issue and showed their support for these students. They allowed them to create a plan and they got behind the initiative and helped see it to fruition. An example of this is when the football coach of Mizzou, Gary Pinkel, got on board with his players and stood with them as they made the decision to not play in the upcoming football game. This is amazing and something that all universities, in my opinion, should take note of — a campus coming together to support each other and stand up against displays of racism.

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My grandmother told me that times always repeat themselves, and I didn’t understand then but I understand now. I see problems of racism that were never solved, and now they are repeating themselves again until they can be laid to rest. Anything that didn’t fit into this melting pot was pushed under the rug in hopes no one would go to lift it and pull the mess out from underneath. The rug is lifted, the mess is out, we all see it and it is being called out for what it is. We can all work together to elevate the problems and issues like the students and staff of Mizzou, or continue ignoring them like before and wait for it to erupt even bigger the next time it comes around.

I give my full support to Concerned Student 1950, and I thank them for standing on the front lines for those who are too afraid to speak out and for giving those who are affected by these issues a place to turn. I honor them for being brave enough, tactful enough and strategic in their plans and actions to start this much-needed revolution for us all. With that, I revert back to the sentiments of Gil Scott-Heron in 1971: “The revolution will not be televised, the revolution will be live.”

Collegian Columnist Chynna Fayne can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @ChynnaFayne.

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  • Z

    zmanNov 23, 2015 at 2:15 am

    The actual problem here is that the faculty is putting up with these disruptions on their campus. Setting up “safe zones” where students self-regulate what kind of speech/expression is tolerated or not tolerated based on their demand for tolerance in the safest of spaces in the country: college campuses. They only are able to voice their outrage because of the freedom of speech and expression they enjoy. Yet they try and control and squash any other speech or expression if it does not agree with their feelings so they can “heal”.

    There’s no objective racial oppression at Mizzou. There were two racial slurs that went viral and the Mizaou president said it was his “first” experience with “in your face” racism. The other was a poop swastika that would be much more offensive to Jews. Every other racial offense was apparently a micro-agressions where the “offense” is one-sided and only determined to be offensive by that person based on their feelings. This is a campus of 35,000 kids who’s white majority elected a black president. At Dartmouth, students students stormed the library and started swearing at other students who were studying. Their offense was they preferred to study rather than protest and if they aren’t fighting oppression they are contributing to it. What better way to fight racism than to scream at students in a library doing what they supposed to be doing. This apparently justifies protesters violating these studious student’s “safe space” which all amounts to a giant tantrum. At Princeton, students stormed the president’s office wanting references to Woodrow Wilson (a former Princeton president) to cease. They can’t handle references to historical figures now? It somehow injures them? One should be able to handle discussions of historical figures and of founding college members. At Smith College, students are baring reporters unless they write favorably about them. The notion is that if you aren’t on our side, then your complicit in racial offenses. At Yale a professor was protested, screamed at, and swore at all because he did not think the college should be involved in what Halloween costumes are appropriate. It’s craziness. Where are the adults? You use the word “oppressive” but there is no evidence for that. In the real world, there are objective standards and individual feelings are not entitled to define those standards or prop themselves up as overriding other’s feelings or expression. As the Yale president said, yes, they have failed these students. Not out of lack of support but by the enabling of notions that feelings are all that matter and that feelings take precedence over tolerance, speech, and manners.

    Also, no! Overt and covert racism are not equal. That’s ridiculous. If one gets punched in the face or has the n-word keyed into their car, that is much worse than someone assuming their African American classmate is good at sports because he is A.A. These are kids, they want a cause to get behind. They want to hold power over something and holding power over the powerful feels empowering no matter how justified it is. These are kids acting out and the admin at these schools is allowing them to legitimately believe they have somehow earned their right to act like intolerant brats.

    Reply
  • S

    SincerelyNov 17, 2015 at 8:43 am

    My only quibble with Mizzou is the documented cases of supporters (even those from here at CSU) complaining that people aren’t paying attention to them because of the terror attack in Paris. How disgusting do you have to be to make a tragedy where over a hundred people died about you and your movement? And this goes for anyone who uses it to advance their political goals. I’ve seen posts claiming that the Paris attacks were proof that religion should be banned or that Muslims should be shot or that Donald Trump should be president. It’s disgusting.

    I do agree with the meaning behind the movement at Mizzou, though I think that some inconsiderate and narcissistic people are trying to abuse it for their own gain.

    Reply