Thoughts on #ConcernedStudent1950 and Mizzou

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the unrest at the University of Missouri resulting in the resignation of the school president and also the school’s chancellor. If you haven’t, I hope you had an epic nap under that rock, but you should definitely consult the big homie, Google.

I have some thoughts…

First, I was, admittedly, late to the party. Despite all my Mizzou grad follows on twitter, I didn’t actually pay attention to this whole hunger strike talk until this past Friday. When I read the story, there were some things that jumped out at me. The article I read had almost no details given about what the students were upset about. I knew that people reading that same post would see this incident as just another example of black people “race baiting” and “playing the race card” (I’ll address those terms in a moment).

But even with the lack of detail in the post, I knew the problem had to be serious. Whether you agreed with his method or not, Jonathan Butler’s decision to go on a hunger strike showed that this was a big enough issue that he was willing to die to be heard. Say what you will about him being reckless in his choice of protests, but the magnitude of his choice pointed to the size of the issue and his feeling of not being able to be heard. I’m sure he wouldn’t be willing to put his health, and ultimately his life, on the line if he didn’t feel the cause were worthy.

On top of that, when football players (including Coach Gary Pinkel) and faculty and staff started getting on board to call for change, it should have become even more apparent that there were some real issues going on in Columbia. As I read comments to the story on ESPN (against my better judgement), I wasn’t surprised by the ignorance I saw. Look, man, the only way to fully understand the depth of what has been going on on that campus is to be on that campus to experience it. No article you read is going to give you the full picture. Journalism is imperfect in that way. It’s dumb to assume that you can know everything about a situation, diagnose the problem as a non-issue, and call the protesters misguided just by reading an article. It doesn’t work that way. And there’s no way to fully understand the desperation those students felt other than to be there and feel their desperation.

Now back to the race card. The idea of race baiting is nothing new. Everybody loves Martin Luther [the] King now, but he was accused of those same things in his time (Case in point, they murdered him because they saw him as a race baiter). Some white people saw no problem with the way things were, and they did not like the fact that he, and others, were rocking the boat. Before him, those who fought against slavery were considered malcontents. The mention of race has ALWAYS been a hot-button topic in this country.

Those terms of “race baiting” and “playing the race card” are problematic, because they are used at every mention of race. The fact is that race MUST be discussed in this country if we’re ever going to heal from our racist history. To turn a deaf ear to the very mention of race is, quite literally, to deny any progress toward ending the need for race to be a discussion. But if our history has taught us anything, it’s that race will always need to be a discussion here. And in those places where the discussion is most needed, there will always be scores of people ready to not have it.

-Erik (@WalkSays)

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Erik Walker

Erik is black.

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