Death Threats + Walkouts: An Update on the Situation at Mizzou
It was only a few hours after we posted our comprehensive coverage of the protest movement at University of Missouri that the situation descended into chaos. It’s a testament to the power of the Internet and the breakneck speed of news that, two days after our original report, everything has changed—and not for the better. While the UM campus becomes a tense battleground, a racial justice movement is spreading across college campuses.
Facebook and Twitter feeds are flooded with firsthand accounts from students on campus whose education has been halted by online death threats, verbal harassment, and racist bands of white students who have taken to driving around in pickup trucks terrorizing students of color. Black students are too afraid to go to class and have begun to encourage each other to leave campus and seek out safe spaces.
Two students were arrested for making threating statements on Yik Yak, including one that read, “I’m gonna shoot any black people tomorrow, so be ready.” A white professor stepped down from his position after telling a black student “if you give in to bullies, they win,” when she asked to make up an exam because she feared for her safety.
Activists from campuses across the country have united online under the hashtags #ConcernedStudent1950 and #InSolidaritywithMizzou to share their support for the students fighting for their right to educate themselves at MU. At Ithaca College, hundreds walked out to demand the immediate resignation of President Tom Rochon, who they claim has not responded adequately to incidents of racism on campus, Yale students are protesting emails supporting offensive and racist costumes, and at Howard University, security was stepped up after a vile online post stated that “any n****** left at Howard University after 10 tomorrow will be the first to go.”
If all of this sounds surreal and has you clutching your pearls, asking how such a ghastly thing could happen in 2015, stop right now. One of the deadliest hate crimes against black people that one could ever imagine happened this year. There have been more unarmed black people killed by police this year than were lynched in any year since 1923. Students of color are making headlines not for their academic achievements, but rather for the videos and images of them being arrested and brutally beaten by campus police. Right now, stories of the struggles of being a student of color in America can be read on social media outlets under the #BlackOnCampus hashtag. Yet white people continue to not see reality.
White students will never have to worry about campus police or death threats because they dare to further their education. They will never have to choose between going to class to take an exam and risking a walk to class that may include racist epitaphs stopping them at every turn. Whiteness is privilege, but it must never mean silence. No matter what color your skin is, we are all responsible for taking action to create a safe space on and off campus for everyone. We are all living in the age of a new Civil Rights Movement, but rather than fighting against segregation and fighting for the right to vote, people of color are literally fighting for their right to exist. From the campus of University of Missouri to the streets of Ferguson and the classrooms of Spring Valley High School, racism and hatred has created a gaping wound that we, as Americans, can no longer ignore. To everyone reading this, it’s time to wake up and stand together. For far too long the color of your skin has dictated every aspect of life in this country and it’s on all of us to change this reality.
To the students of color at Mizzou and at schools and universities across the country, we stand with you in solidarity. To those who would harm them or threaten their sense of safety, the world is watching.
Photos via Jeff Roberson for Associated Press, Twitter, and Facebook.