March 11, 2017

The Truth about Mizzou, PWIs and Race

mizzou football pwi race

*This post was originally posted 11/16/2015 and later restored, reedited and republished. Read about that here. It may not contain original photos used.

You may have heard about the events that have transpired at Mizzou recently, maybe not. Maybe you still have no idea as to why the head president of the University of Missouri system, Tim Wolfe, and chancellor of the Columbia campus, R. Bowen Loftin both resigned.

Noise. The black students of Mizzou are making lots of it led by Concern Student 1950, the year Mizzou admitted it’s first Black graduate student.

Like many secrets and matters brushed under the rug, it’s past due that Mizzou addressed the enormous bulge in the middle of the room: campus racism.

Back in September, senior and president of the Missouri Students Association, Payton Head, took to Facebook to express his disappointment in lack of action from the university to dissolve racial tensions on campus.

Head detailed in his post of being called “nigger” by a group of men on the back of a pickup truck as he walked through campus. He went on to name the number of instances someone who is non-white may experience exclusion at the university.

“Many of you are so privileged that you’ll never know what it feels likes to be a hijab-wearing Muslim woman and be called a terrorist or a towel head. You don’t have to think about being transgendered and worrying about finding a restroom where you can go and not be targeted for violence because you don’t fit into the gender binary.” 

That sparked a sound off board for students and faculty to recount the times they were made aware of their blackness without their consent.

Mizzou journalism professor, Dr. Cyndi Frisby, no longer held in her silence as she posted on Facebook being called a “nigger” by a white man while jogging. Frisby also discussed out of her nearly 18 years as a faculty member not only has she experienced colleagues calling her the n-word but had a student refuse to address her PhD title because he was taught Black people earn degrees off “affirmative action.”

The onset off Mizzou’s racial tension caused for me to think about my experience at my my public white institution (PWI) alma mater. I love my red and black but in the 2012 academic year, which I enrolled, 7% of the student population was Black. That number has remained unvarying in the recent years; I’m not surprised or disappointed. In 2014, Mizzou’s Black student population was 7% and although two separate regions and rival football teams I understand the academic and demographic outcry of these students.

Attending a PWI as a minority can either be an inclusive or exclusive experience and the reality is: It is not for us to choose. From my perspective you have to accept your school is not a HBCU, it’s not going to be 50:50, and you will more than likely be one of the few non-white students in class. Some may feel attending those colleges and universities as a minority puts you in some type of premier status. But how exclusive can you be when your culture is not embraced? I appreciate the genetic makeup of the student body at my alma mater; however, I cannot help but acknowledge that the same issues surfaced in Missouri could very much so happen in Georgia. The deep south. It has all the variables.

Racism will never go away as long as there are people who do not want it to.

The issues at Mizzou did not just start a couple of months ago. Black people didn’t just start wanting equality during the Civil Rights Movement.

In 2010, two white male students were arrested on littering charges for covering the front lawn of MU’s Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center with cotton balls. The students called their actions a “prank”.

In one of the most disturbing cases at the university, a swastika smeared in feces was found in a dormitory bathroom in October. A police report was made, so yes that actually happened. So no, this isn’t one of those liberal shenanigans. Someone did doodle a swastiska in doodie.

In June, a white male freshman at MU confessed to burning a swastika along with a “you have been warned” message. He blamed his actions on the alcohol….and weed.

When you want to be acknowledged, you often times have to take extreme measures just to get that attention. I’m sure Concerned Student 1950 did not want to protest at their homecoming parade. I’m sure Jonathan Butler, MU graduate student, didn’t want to go through a hunger strike for a week. I’m quite sure the football team didn’t want to get involve. That’s another thing.

People need to understand the power that sports–especially football–plays into politics.

I’ve heard it before that sports run this country and never paid much attention to it. What influence— if any and how much—sports plays into politics makes Mizzou a great example. College football alone is a billion dollar industry.

Now granted Mizzou has not had the best season, but it ranks in NCAA that made $455.8 million revenue in the 2014-2015 fiscal year (each school gets $31.2 million). And don’t let me get started on the head coach’s salary, don’t let me.

You know how many Black faces are under those helmets? You know how much money said Black faces bring to these universities and sports in general? Mizzou is a great example. Many of times you don’t see a reaction out of people until you hit them where it hurts—their pockets. That’s when they are not just looking but listening and shit gets real.

These (ahem, Black) football players do receive social leverage. Trust me, I’ve seen it. They’re respected for their athletic capability over their individuality.

When your school is facing a $1 million dollar violation for breaking a football contract you start singing a different tune. Two days after the Mizzou football team stood in protest by not playing any games until (then) President Wolfe resigned, he then held a press conference to announce his immediate resignation. When you want results you push people to the edge and this is simply a case of what happens when outcries go ignored.

Let me be clear: Aside from some similarities, a student-athlete and nonstudent-athlete have two completely different college experiences. A regular student protestor looks a hell of a lot different than one on a football roster. How often do football teams protest their university president? Never.

Yes, classes have been disrupted and the campus environment shifted since the protest, but no one should pay tuition or go to their job to be called a “nigger” or reminded of the Holocaust while going to the restroom. You don’t get to say America isn’t that racist because the president is Black. You don’t get to tell people, “shit happens” as your best display of empathy.

Mizzou is a micro to the macro. Whether it may be our schools or corporations, each reflect our American history. We have not reached peace nor know how to effectively communicate our needs to a level where we all stand to care. This revolution is not just for Black students, but all students from all walks of life to come together to ignite change that can began to solve our country’s racism, sexism and all the other “isms”. It happened with Tim Wolfe and it can happen again.

Our diplomas are not badges of affirmative action. Ba’lee dat.





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