I can admit. Before yesterday, I was clueless as to the racial tension that had arisen at the University of Missouri.
Normally, I am on top of injustices that are important to the Twitterverse(that place where you find out what is REALLY going on in the world before mainstream starts reporting, if they do, on it). My timeline is filled with people who I consider to be movers, shakers and activists.
As I was preparing to watch yesterday’s game between my beloved Carolina Panthers and the Green Bay Packers, Twitter alerted me that multiple accounts had retweeted a picture that was tweeted by University of Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel. I immediately opened my feed to see one of the most powerful images I have seen in recent years; the Missouri football team and coaches linked up, arm in arm, in solidarity. The tweet: “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players. #ConcernedStudent1950 GP.”
Ok. What had I missed? A quick search gave me the answers. Racial tensions have been high for years at the University of Missouri. These tensions began to climb higher and higher last year with the death of black teenager Michael Brown at the hands white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is two hours away from the campus located in Columbia. Naturally, with the campus being relatively close the affects of what was taking place in Missouri was affecting those on campus in Columbia.
According to students, there was nothing done of campus to address or acknowledge what was being felt by many. In addition to this situation, there were reports of racial slurs being hurled at students including the Student Body President who said he was called the n-word by fellow students when he was walking through campus one day. Students, faculty, staff and supporters of the school began to call out University of Missouri system president, Tim Wolfe, whom in their opinion was lackadasical, nonchalant and unconcerned about what as taking place.
In walks, Jonathan Butler. Butler, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, saw the protests, letters and calls of action were not getting the attention they deserved. In an effort to heighten what was an already tense situation, Butler began a hunger strike last Monday. His demands were simple. Tim Wolfe would either resign or be fired or he would die from hunger.
As you would expect, Butler’s stance started to assist the many who had already been concerned with getting the attention the tension deserved. As one would expect, Wolfe issued a statement acknowledging the tension while refusing to step down. As one would not expect, his statement included no information alluding to the powers that be working towards a common ground to alleviate the plethora of feelings being felt on the campus.
After gathering up the information, Sunday’s tweet from Pinkel was now viewed by me in a totally different light becayse it came in support of something that had taken place the night before. Saturday night, a photo was tweeted out showing 32 black players for the football team, arm in arm, in solidarity, vowing to boycott all practices, meetings and games until Wolfe was no longer in office.
That was big.
Sunday’s tweet from Pinkel was EVEN bigger. It is one thing for players of the same race to stand together as one in a effort to bring about change. It is another thing for players AND coaches from all different races to stand together as one, in an effort to bring about change.
We live in a world where everything is black, white and full of stereotypes. Some black people think we don’t have enough power to evoke change. Some white people think that black people don’t desire their help in evoking change. And some are just so hung up on stereotypes that they negate the ability to allow change to happen.
What the football team did at the University of Missouri was unprecedented. It is hard to convey how powerful their stance is. I knew as soon as that tweet was sent out that Wolfe would be resigning. How did I know? It is real simple. Sports DOMINATE. And football dominates the sporting world. And football dominating means mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’money. Last year, the University of Missouri football program brought in $35 million dollars to the school. Thirty-five million. Yeah, you are going to take notice when the people driving that revenue train stand up and say enough is enough. More importantly, you are going to take action because it effects your bottom line.
While applauding the football team with a standing ovation, Wolfe’s resignation is a staunch reminder that money talks. I wish the efforts of the students, Jonathan Butler and all who took a stance before the football team did would have gotten the attention of the powers that be. I wish it did not take a student having to go on a seven day hunger strike for Wolfe to acknowledge the problems that existed. But I am glad that the University of Missouri football team served notice. Notice to people everywhere how we can affect change when we come together. Notice to the powers that be that injustices will not be tolerated. Notice to student-athletes and athletes, especially black athletes, nationwide about their power especially their fiscal power. As my dear friend B. Lewis so eloquently put it, “the masses should use their power more often…in this generation, fiscal boycotts are the most effective form of protest.”
You have more power than you realize. Use it because if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Take notice masses. Take notice.