The watchful eyes of the American public have fallen on the prestigious University of Missouri. With one of the largest and highly honored journalism schools in the nation, sports media members are no stranger to this university. The world watched as Mizzou’s reaction to this weekend’s peaceful protest, brought forth by students, escalated to the resigning of Tim Wolfe this morning. The media speculated about whether the Missouri football team’s involvement in the protest was the tipping point for the school to take action. The outrage of a few, seemingly isolated, students snowballed into the outrage of supporters across the nation in the last few days. The students now know they are not alone in this powerful stance against racism.
Yet, this goes deeper than just racism.
This goes to the point where Mizzou stood by while two students defaced the Black Culture Center during Black History Month by throwing cotton balls onto the lawn. The ONE place black students felt safe was violated and the two students that did it? Charged with littering. MU police arrested the students on suspicion of second-degree tampering whereas if the charge was classified as a hate crime, it would have been upgraded to a felony.
“Mizzou students Sean Fitzgerald and Zachary Tucker are now accused litterbugs. Our friends at the Riverfront Times report that prosecutors charged the duo with littering because they didn’t believe they could convince a jury that they intended to commit a hate crime. “
The students withdrew from the university, but that obviously did not end the hate filled crimes against minorities on campus. The next Black History Month? The hatefully charged term “n*gger” was spray painted outside Hatch Hall. Not to mention how in 2004, a Mizzou student wrote an entire article accusing black students for the vandalism in Greek-town and told them to “stay in their own little worlds…” that was published in the campus newspaper. The sentiment from minority students of all backgrounds is that they are not welcome and do not share the security their white peers feel on campus.
This all leads up to the incident making national news of Payton Head, who posted about a racially charged incident of him walking through campus and was being called “n*gger” from men in a pickup truck. While this was not the first incident Head had experienced, it was the one that made him speak out about his treatment. On October 5th, a student yelling slurs at a the Legion of Black Collegians, a group simply practicing their homecoming performance. What was the action Mizzou took after this? Online diversity training. As you can imagine, that did little to nothing as on October 24th, a swastika drawn in human feces was found on the floor and wall of an on-campus dormitory. November 2nd, the hunger strike began.
How does this all tie into sports?
— LBC (@MizzouLBC) November 8, 2015
The black students on the Mizzou football team took up a stance against the ignorance the school was allowing to happen on campus. Later, Coach Gary Pinkel announced the team’s unity as a whole for the boycott.
— Coach Gary Pinkel (@GaryPinkel) November 8, 2015
The president of Mizzou has resigned. The strike has ended.Was it because of football? No. Was it aided by a money making part of the university flat out refusing to play until they cooperated with the student demands? Sure. The power of sports transcends a lot of instances, including the ability for students to be heard and be treated with the respect they deserve. Many people wanted to bring up the irrelevant question of Mizzou’s losing record and dismal chance at the SEC Championship as being the only reason they did this “stunt.” Even if Mizzou was 9-0, this racial climate problem would still be a crucial concern of the Mizzou Tigers football program.
One Twitter user put it best:
@SSJWHB In response, if Mizzou was 8-1 etc. that prez wouldn't have lasted a day. To me, they'd have MORE power if they were doing better.
— Ballot or the Bullet (@JJones816) November 9, 2015
If you are too dense to understand why the president needed to resign and no longer represent the university as a whole, let me explain.
Countless acts of racism, sexism and intolerance happen at universities across the nation. No, a president can’t stop WORDS of hatred and racism. No, a president cannot stop THOUGHTS of hatred and racism. A president can speak out and support the students on campus that are being attacked and get a plan together on how to end hate crimes at the university. A president can demand that a female student that has been raped should get a proper and fair investigation done, regardless of who the accused rapist is-even if he plays football. A president could have prevented a suicide by offering more than just isolation of a female student athlete that just wanted her rapist to be charged (note: Gary Forsee was president at the time and Wolfe did not take over officially until 2012). The point of mentioning this incident? The school as a whole failed to act.
“The University of Missouri did not investigate or tell law enforcement officials about an alleged rape, possibly by one or more members of its football team, despite administrators finding out about the alleged 2010 incident more than a year ago, an “Outside the Lines” investigation has found. The alleged victim, a member of the swim team, committed suicide in 2011.”
If you’d like to read all of the infuriating details, feel free to do so here.
So as you can tell, this is more than just an issue of people saying racially charged and hateful words and the president not doing anything about it. There have been years of racist, sexist and intolerant actions by students and years of the University of Missouri not doing enough about it. This is not just one instance and something that has been blown out of proportion. This is not JUST one university that has these problems. This is not something that people can casually dismiss as kids being kids. Hatred is not wired into our brains at birth. Hatred is taught through learned experiences and those around us influencing the way we behave towards others by example. If you truly believe someone’s skin color determines who they are as a person and what station they are condemned to in life, I doubt you’re even reading to this point. If you are raised to think black people are bad and scary, I doubt you understand why the situation at Mizzou is such a big deal. If you are convinced that black people are below you because you are white, I doubt you even bother reading this article.
I have been raised by my father’s very diverse family to be open-minded and to love and respect others. I never understood another way of thinking. I have seen racism throughout my childhood play out to make it look like the kids were just “teasing” and it wasn’t a “big deal.” When does it become a big deal? When teenagers go off to college and find it acceptable to yell racial slurs at their peers? The conversation of where to go from here started the moment someone decided to no longer put up with the intolerance and racism going on at a school with a history of problems in this subject.
“Missouri had 63 criminal cases involving 46 athletes during the five-year time period. Twelve athletes were involved in more than one incident, Outside the Lines found, and Missouri had the second-highest number of allegations of sexual assault, violence against women, and harassment. Florida State had the most.” -Outside the Lines
Clearly, something is not being accounted for with Missouri and if this instance changed things up for the better, so be it.
The chance for Mizzou to make the change needed by the students and by the faculty is being handed to them on a silver platter. The opportunity for the new regime of talking heads to actually make a difference and work in unity with ALL school departments to provide a safer and more inclusive experience is here. The insight Mizzou can provide to schools in similar situations trying to change their campus outlook on tolerance and acceptance has the ability to change this narrow minded culture.
The only way we will be able to see the change needed to better the world around us is to go through the uncomfortable process of openly discussing what needs to change and why. Respecting someone’s skin color, sexual orientation, gender, styles of clothing, make-up, taste in music, etc. doesn’t mean you agree with everything they do. Respecting someone else’s existence and choices has nothing to do with who THEY are as a person, it has everything to do with who YOU are a person.
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