The University of Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians released a statement tonight from the collective athletes of color on the Tigers football team stating they are on strike from football-related activities until the school president steps down in the wake of several racist acts on campus.
Many Missouri students believe school president Tim Wolfe has failed to act in response to several months’ worth of alleged racism on the Columbia campus—the most recent and controversial of which was a swastika of human feces found in a residence hall. The debate is mostly happening over on Facebook, where views both nuanced and not can be found under the #concernedstudent1950 hashtag.
Update (10:00 p.m.): Defensive back John Gibson says the coaches fully support the effort.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Black University of Missouri students are hungry for an end to racism on campus
Having experienced racism and discrimination firsthand as a high school student in rural Kentucky, my two best friends and I decided that we wanted to attend a college where we knew we were valued and where racial discrimination would be a near impossibility. In August of 1997, my buddies and I left Versailles, Kentucky and moved to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College, a historically black college for men founded in the shadows of slavery.
Our hopes held out, and during our years as students, not once did any of us experience racism on the campus. For four years, it was like we lived in a sacred, protective bubble. It was during those four years that I was able to heal from all that I had endured in the preceding years.
Black students who attend predominantly white colleges do not live in a protective bubble ... quite the opposite. Instead, in spite of often paying more than $30,000 per year to attend, black students on predominantly white college campuses regularly face overt racism at every corner.
Now, African-American students at the University of Missouri are staging a powerful protest to combat the despicable racism they've experienced on campus. Jonathan Butler, a respected graduate student at the University of Missouri, is now in his fifth day of a hunger strike, to force the university to finally take the concerns of its black students seriously. His protest emerges out of hundreds of African-American students at the university, including the student body president, Payton Head, who have been describing the racism they've witnessed and experienced for months on end.
African-American students at the University of Missouri have been called racial slurs, have had defacing threats left on their dorms, and have been made to feel unsafe and unheard by the university.
Eventually, their concerns turned into demands, and have actually been endorsed by multiple academic departments on the campus. It's yet to be seen though if the University of Missouri is actually going to respond to these demands or continue to ignore them and let this young man starve to death in the process.
These students, though, are not alone.
Students at Yale University have been facing racism for years and are just now being truly acknowledged. White students at at least three predominantly white universities were reprimanded for dressing up in blackface to mock black culture. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education has actually documented dozens of incidents of racism faced by black students and staff all across the country.
All of this comes as many Americans seem to want to celebrate our living in a post-racial society. We are anything but that.
Racial climate at MU: A timeline of incidents to date this fall
- EMMA VANDELINDER
- Nov 6, 2015
COLUMBIA — The racial climate at MU has been tumultuous for months, but with recent events — including a hunger strike undertaken this week by a graduate student and campus activist — conversation and action has hastened. Here’s a chronological look at the key incidents since September that have led to a recent escalation of tension on campus:
Sept. 12: Missouri Students Association president Payton Head posts about a racial slur directed at him.
Payton Head, MU senior and president of MSA, renewed the dialogue about racism and the racial climate on campus after publishing a Facebook post about his first-hand experience with racism. The night before, Head said he was walking around campus when the passenger of a pickup repeatedly shouted the “N-word” at him.
Head’s statement went viral on social media, and many people shared their support of Head and frustration with MU’s response, or lack thereof, to his post.
“I’d had experience with racism before, like microaggressions, but that was the first time I’d experienced in-your-face racism,” Head told a Missourian reporter.
Oct. 5: Legion of Black Collegians members are the targets of racial slurs by a man on campus.
Another instance of racism brought the racial climate on campus again to the attention of students and administrators.
The Legion of Black Collegians shared a letter on social media describing the group's encounter with overt racism the night before. The group was rehearsing for a performance at Traditions Plaza when a “young man” talking on his cellphone walked up to the group. After being politely and repeatedly asked to leave, the man walked away but referenced LBC members using racial slurs.
That same day, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin responded with a post of his own, acknowledging and condemning racism at MU.
“There was a silence that fell over us all, almost in disbelief that this racial slur in particular was used in our vicinity,” Naomi Collier, president of MU’s NAACP chapter and member of the LBC’s activities committee, wrote in the letter.
Oct. 8: Loftin announces mandatory online diversity training for faculty, staff and students, which is met with widespread skepticism.
The training came after a number of accounts of overt racism experience by students on campus, but was met with skepticism and suspicion.
Jonathan Butler, MU graduate student and campus activist, wrote a letter to Loftin saying the training was “a step in the right direction, but it is not enough.”
Oct. 10: Members of Concerned Student 1950 protest during the MU Homecoming Parade, blocking a car carrying UM System President Tim Wolfe.
Concerned Student 1950 refers to the year African-American students were first admitted the MU. The group targeted Wolfe’s car during Homecoming to send the message that students will not be ignored by administrators on the issue of discrimination on campus.
“We’ve sent emails, we’ve sent tweets, we’ve messaged but we’ve gotten no response back from the upper officials at Mizzou to really make change on this campus,” Butler said afterward.
The protesters blocked the street and Wolfe’s car for about 15 minutes, chanting and making speeches, until they were dispersed by police. Some students watching the parade also joined in on the protest in support. No protesters were arrested for disturbing the parade.
“I joined in the line because white silence is compliance, like what they were yelling in the Student Center. I feel like I can’t just sit by and watch. It’s not my fight, but I support it,” MU undergraduate Breanne LoPresti told a reporter.
Oct. 21: Concerned Student 1950 issues a statement of demands, including a formal apology from Wolfe and his removal from office.
Ten days after the Homecoming protest,the group issued the statement with eight demands, including enforcement of mandatory racial awareness and inclusion training for all faculty, staff and students; an increase in the percentage of black faculty and staff; and an increase in funding to hire mental health professionals for the MU Counseling Center, particularly those of color; and more staff for social justice centers on campus.
A number of groups showed their support for the sentiment, including the Department of Black Studies, the Department of Classical Studies and the School of Health Professions.
Oct. 27: Concerned Student 1950 meets with Wolfe but do not resolve any issues.
Members of the group said Wolfe did not agree to any of the demands they sent to him the previous week. In the meeting, Wolfe said he cared for black students at MU but was "'not completely' aware of systemic racism, sexism, and patriarchy on campus," according to a statement by Concerned Student 1950.
Morning of Nov. 2: Jonathan Butler announces he will go on a hunger strike until Wolfe is removed from office.
Butler said his decision was made a few days after student protesters interrupted the Homecoming Parade in October.
To prepare for the strike, he reduced his food intake and researched how his body would react. He updated his will and spoke to a physician.
As of Friday, Butler had gone five days without food.
Butler said the demand for Wolfe’s removal from office was made because of the president's failure to respond sincerely and actively to student concerns about discrimination on campus. Butler has continued his daily life during the strike, working and attending his classes.
“During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost," Butler wrote in a letter to the UM System Board of Directors.
Evening of Nov. 2: Students camp on Carnahan Quadrangle in support of the hunger strike and Wolfe's removal from office.
One Concerned Student 1950 representative said student activists will stay until the semester ends in December, if that's what it takes.
Nov. 3: Concerned Student 1950 and supporters meet with Wolfe and Loftin near University Hall to discuss race relations and discrimination.
The Forum on Graduate Rights, an activist group dedicated to improving the state of graduate student employees at MU, called for the gathering and made a statement supporting Jonathan Butler and his hunger strike.
“JB (Butler) is our colleague, our fellow activist and our friend,” said Eric Scott, co-chair of the Coalition of Graduate Workers, a part of the Forum on Graduate Rights. “We want him to live a happy and healthy life, and you (Wolfe) have the power to resolve this, and we urge you to use it.”
Wolfe responded to students’ commentsby saying racism is unacceptable, he is committed to combating it on campus and his actions will support his words. Student activists were not convinced and continued to press Wolfe for answers. Loftin did not make a statement, but was present for the duration of the meeting.
Evening of Nov. 3: Concerned Student 1950 decides to boycott MU services until Wolfe is removed from office.
The boycott was announced Wednesday and officially began Thursday. The group is using the hashtag #BoycottUM to promote the boycott of merchandise, retail dining services and ticketed events. The group began using a website calledChange.org to hold a petition to remove Wolfe from office.
“We are boycotting spending money at the Student Center, we are boycotting football games — anything that brings the university extra money, until everything is resolved. If you can’t listen to our voices, you can’t have our dollars," said Storm Ervin, Concerned Student 1950 representative, in an interview.
Nov. 5: Concerned Student 1950 holds a demonstration on campus before the MU-Mississippi State football game.
About 200 members and supporters of Concerned Student 1950 participated in the demonstration, marching through campus and chanting “Join us in the revolution." Participants were urged to identify themselves only as “Concerned Student.” At Speaker's Circle, the group reiterated its demand for UM System President Tim Wolfe’s removal.
The same day, Payton Head posted on Twitter a slideshow of images of racist comments he said were made by MU students, and Chancellor Loftin responded: "Sad to see more hate speech hiding behind anonymity. Racism, bias, discrimination have no place here."
Evening of Nov. 5: Students reschedule a football game protest for Monday, citing security reasons.
Members of Concerned Student 1950 planned to hold the protest after Missouri’s football game Thursday night. Nearly 100 protesters gathered in the basement of the MU Student Center that night, but decided the circumstances — mixing with “drunk white people” after the Tigers’ loss — could lead to an unsafe protest. Details about Monday's protest have not been announced.
Nov. 6: Wolfe issues an apology for his action and inaction during the Homecoming protest.
In the statement, he said he was very concerned for Jonathan Butler's health and acknowledged that racism at the university exists and is unacceptable.
"I regret my reaction at the MU homecoming parade when the ConcernedStudent1950 group approached my car," the statement read. "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."
"I am asking us to move forward in addressing the racism that exists at our university — and it does exist. Together we must rise to the challenge of combatting racism, injustice, and intolerance."
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Edited by Hand2HandKing - 11/25/15 at 8:14pm