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Sometimes, You Just Have To Take A Stand
Published:
11/11/2015 5:07:23 PM

By Beverly Gasdon-Birch
   

University of Missouri President Timothy Wolfe is a believer now. It seems students, coaches and some staff members were disappointed in Wolfe’s handling of racial slurs and incidents directed at black students on campus. In one incident according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “someone used human feces to draw a swastika on the walls inside a bathroom in Gateway Hall on campus”.

Already in place was a boycott of the university’s dining hall and retail services by Concerned Student 1950, an activist group, and a hunger strike by Jonathan Butler, a popular graduate student at the university. Butler was approaching his seventh day of fasting and vowed to continue his hunger strike until President Wolfe resigned.

The protest sped to a quick resolution when the university’s football team supported by the coaches joined the protest. The students protested the slow response by the university to racial incidents on campus and called for swift and deliberate actions by the President in responding to racial slurs and activities at the university.

The university was under pressure to resolve the protest swiftly. It turns out that the university would lose over a million dollars if the team failed to show up for their game against Brigham Young University. Players were faced with the threat of losing their scholarships if they joined the protest. Even with such a dire consequence to their human rights protest, team players chose to lock arms with protestors demanding Wolfe’s resignation. Black and White team members vowed to boycott football games and activities until President Wolfe stepped down. President Wolfe was adamant in his position not to step down. With the players’ solidarity stance and public support escalating, President Wolfe resigned and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin agreed to step down in a less prominent role.

Prior to the protests, the students tried to have their concerns heard but felt they were facing a losing battle when President Wolfe did not act on their concerns.

The number of black athletes at predominately white universities is increasing. According to the New York Times, 60 of the 124 football players at the University of Missouri are black. Blacks are recruited heavily for their athletic ability and are responsible for bringing big bucks to the school through the athletic department. As quiet as it is kept, they are a force to be reckoned with. Power without action is powerless.

Let’s not forget that graduate student Jonathan Butler compromised his health in his fight against injustices at his school. His decision to fast until changes were made in the way minorities are treated brought the spotlight down on the University of Missouri.

Butler’s fasting was largely responsible for the football team and students joining in the protest out of concern for his health. It was the initial action of one that created an atmosphere of unrest that led to President Wolfe’s resignation and Chancellor Loftin assuming a less prominent role at the university. The action of one made a difference.

Sometimes, you just have to take a stand even if you have to stand by yourself. You, too, can make a difference!

Stop taking the back seat when sacrifices have been made for you to ride up front. Stop staying home on Election Day because you think your vote will not count. Folks died for your right to vote. Folks died fighting injustices. What good is “a difference” if no one takes advantage of it? All it takes is one match to start a fire. You don’t need a whole book of matches. Think on these things.



 

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