The University of Missouri has a grave problem with a racially hostile environment for Black students, and after the university president has failed to talk to students about their concerns, the football players have decided they have had enough.
What the Missouri students are embarking upon is not a spontaneous reaction, but rather a result of frustration over years of racial epithets and hate crimes committed against them, and the failure and unwillingness of the university administration, particularly University President Tim Wolfe, to address the ongoing crisis.
In February 2010, during Black History month, a racist display was left outside of a campus building, as the sidewalk and grass outside the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center was littered with cotton balls, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. Two white male students were arrested.
A year later, in February 2011, racially offensive graffiti, including the word ni**er, was painted outside of Hatch Hall.
Meanwhile, on September 11, 2015, the student body president, Payton Head, was repeatedly called n***er by men in a pickup truck as he was walking through campus.
“I really just want to know why my simple existence is such a threat to society. 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,” the student said on Facebook.
On October 5, Vox reported a man allegedly yelled racial slurs at a student group called the Legion of Black Collegians as they were practicing a homecoming performance. R. Bowen Loftin, the university chancellor, issued a statement.
“Let’s end hatred and racism at Mizzou,” he said. “We’re part of the same family. You don’t hate your family.” Loftin also announced required online diversity training for the entire university.
On October 10, a group of students calling themselves “Concerned Student 1950”—named after the year Black students were first admitted to the school—protested the homecoming parade in Columbia and educated the crowd on white supremacy and Missouri’s history of racial violence and exclusivity. Whites in the crowd angrily shouted at the Black student activists. Wanting to confront President Wolfe, the Black protesters blocked his car and the parade for 15 minutes. In the process, Wolfe’s car bumped into Jonathan Butler, a graduate student and one of the protesters. He also had police remove the Black students.
— Ginae Maul (@GIN__nJuice) October 14, 2015
Finally, on October 24, a student “scrawled a swastika in human feces on the floor and wall of a dormitory,” according to the Kansas City Star. Jonathan Butler staged a hunger strike, and this past Sunday, the University of Missouri football team announced it would not play until Wolfe resigns from his post.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) November 8, 2015
The students issued the following demands:
— deray mckesson (@deray) November 8, 2015
Meanwhile, Wolfe, who earns a $459,000 salary from the university, has no plans to resign. Speaking with students on Friday night, Wolfe responded to a question about systematic oppression.
“I will give you an answer, and I’m sure it will be a wrong answer,” he said.
Wolfe then told the group, “Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success.”
He then walked away as the students reacted negatively. “Did you just blame us for systematic oppression, Tim Wolfe?” a student yelled at him.
saw this last night but didn’t have context. the system president. presented without comment. pic.twitter.com/KVGvf30vQp
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) November 8, 2015