Weeks of peaceful protests, threats of financial boycotts lead by the Missouri Tigers, who vowed to boycott all football-related activities, one student nearly starving to death, pressure from students, politicians and faculty and a series of closed-door meetings held by the Board of Curators of the university.
All of this has finally resulted in University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe’s resignation on Monday morning for gross neglect of racial issues on campus.
So how did this all start and who started this?
According to the The Maneater, the “official, independent student news source of the University of Missouri,” on Sept. 12, the Missouri Students Association president, Payton Head, posted on Facebook. As he was walking through campus, he said students riding on the back of a pickup truck screamed the N-word racial slur at him.
“I really just want to know why my simple existence is such a threat to society,” he said. “For those of you who wonder why I’m always talking about the importance of inclusion and respect, it’s because I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at this university, making me not feel included here.”
Just a couple of weeks later, graduate student Danielle Walker and fellow students formed a rally called “Racism Lives Here.” After no action was taken, a week later, Danielle held another one, calling school administration to take action. Nothing from administration.
Shortly after, University of Missouri apprehended an intoxicated man who interrupted the Legion of Black Collegians (LBC) 2015 Homecoming royalty court rehearsal, screaming out another racial slur. This finally caught administration’s attention and Mizzou’s Chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, tweeted his disgust at the incident the next day.
Just one day later, Payton, Missouri Students Association president, organized a sit-down study hall protest from 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. The Missouri Students Association executive cabinet wrote, “University of Missouri — Columbia administration has allowed the campus community to become an environment in which students of various races, genders, sexualities and other backgrounds navigate through this institution in fear…Racism lives at the University of Missouri and we cannot allow it any further.”
Still nothing from administration. The LBC, by this time known as Concerned Student 1950 — in reference to the year the first black students were admitted to the University of Missouri — gathered at the Homecoming parade to protest once again, meeting Wolfe who was in a red sports car, by interlocking arms and chanting:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support each other,
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
According to a tweet by the LBC, other students began shouting the university’s “MIZ-ZOU” chant to drown out the LBC and three large white men tried to take away the group’s megaphone and physically blocked them from speaking directly to Wolfe.
The president didn’t respond, stayed seated in his car and just allowed the police to forcefully break up the protesters. LBC alleged via a letter, that members of the Columbia Police Department “also threatened protesters with pepper spray and the potential for arrest if they did not comply.”
It gets worse. A few days later, a swastika drawn in human feces was found on the floor and wall of a bathroom in a residence hall on campus. Following that incident, Wolfe finally met with Concerned Student 1950 and said that “racism is unacceptable,” however, did not put forth an action plan to stop these heinous acts.
As administration continued to ignore the outcry of the students, Jonathan Butler, an activist, announced on Facebook that he was going to be participating in a hunger strike.
Following Butler’s announcement, Concerned Student 1950 organized a walkout. Fellow students responded with racist posts on the anonymous app Yik Yak. Payton Head posted to his Twitter that comments that were made such as: “Do not feed the protestors,” one note read. “If you do, they’ll keep coming back for more and leave their natural habitat.”
Administrators responded by saying, “Racism has no place here,” yet no action was taken.
Concerned Student 1950 decided to take things into their own hands and were confronted by students after leaving a function and caught on camera, telling a student, “Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity or success in this world.”
Mizzou defensive back Anthony Sherrils tweeted a photo with Jonathan and 30 of the team’s black football players, saying, “Our struggle may look different, but we are all #ConcernedStudent1950,” and pledging to boycott all football games.
Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel followed by tweeting a subsequent photo. This time, it featured the entire football team.
Immediately after the school realized if they break their contract, the school would lose a million dollars, a series of closed-door meetings held by the Board of Curators of the University ensued, which resulted in Tim Wolfe resigning.
Why did this take three months before administration took action? If racial slurs were made against the white community, would action by the campus have taken this long?
If you thought this couldn’t possibly get worse, it does.
As people across the nation celebrated, tensions at the Mizzou campus arose with death threats that were made on Yik Yak. Others last night and this morning scared for their lives, tweeted from the university’s Columbia campus that people were harassing students driving around the school, while a group of men with bandannas covering their faces were walking around yelling racial slurs at black students.
These students weren’t apprehended.
Mizzou posted on Facebook last night around 11 P.M., “There is no immediate threat to campus. Please do not spread rumors. In an emergency, the alert systems and MU Alert system would immediately be activated.”
However, a couple hours later, 19-year-old Hunter Park — who isn’t even a student, was taken into custody by the university police department around 1:50 A.M. Wednesday. He was charged with making the alleged terrorist threat on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak, stating he was going to “shoot every black person I see.”
I’m confused, why wasn’t he charged with acts of terrorism? Let’s call him what he is: a terrorist. Instead, he was simply initially slapped with a $4,500 bond. On social media, Barry University law professor Khaled Beydoun brought forth a great point: “Bond set at $4500 for #HunterPark — teen who made violent, racist threats at #Mizzou. $500 less than $5K bond for #SandraBland.”
This morning, Mizzou went on to post, “MUPD has apprehended the suspect who posted threats to campus on Yik Yak and other social media.” Wait — I thought there was no threat? Classes weren’t canceled, even though students were genuinely scared for their lives and no threats were issued by MUPD. Why?
I’ll tell you. Four words. White privilege, white supremacy. It looks like marginalized students trying to speak up about their experiences, their real life struggles, demanding change to be — get this — just treated fairly, and in return are bullied and threatened. It looks like white supremacists trying to silence those students, because of how uncomfortable they feel. It looks like students who can be blatantly racist and threaten other students with no true repercussions. It looks like kids who can’t even go to school without fear of being shot.
No one should ever have to choose between going to school or staying alive. Stay safe Mizzou, we stand interlocked arm to arm right beside you.
Image by: Elizabeth Loutfi/The Maneater