In the wake of growing student protests, the University of Missouri System’s president, Tim Wolfe, has resigned. Students of color, black athletes, and black faculty members stood in solidarity against the inaction of President Wolfe to address racial inequities on the University of Missouri campus. Students like Jonathan Butler, who was on a hunger strike, led the effort by displaying their resolve in the face of the bureaucratic power of the University of Missouri. Faculty members stood with the students, as well as the black athletes on the Mizzou football team, thus forming a powerful bloc against racism on campus that forced a significant concession.
The issues that caused the movement to emerge are numerous and encompass decades of unspoken racism within the University of Missouri System. This year several black student groups reported incidents of racial discrimination on campus through the use of verbal slurs and other discriminatory acts, such as a swastika painted in human feces that appeared on a dormitory wall . On October 10th black students attempted to draw attention to the festering racism on campus by blocking President Wolfe’s car during the homecoming parade. Wolfe proved himself to be unresponsive to the calls for a discussion of race in the University of Missouri community, and the protesters were promptly removed.
Within the past week events have turned in the favor of the students. During President Wolfe’s trip to Kansas City to attend a fundraising event at the Kauffman Center, he was confronted by fifty UMKC and MU student protesters from the group Concerned Students 1950. When confronted by a student regarding the nature of systemic oppression, Wolfe responded by claiming that systemic oppression is when “…you don’t believe that you have equal opportunity for success.” Clearly, the administration, with Wolfe as its figurehead, has no intention of dealing with the pervasive manifestations of racism within the University of Missouri system.
Now that the students have been successful in removing Wolfe, what’s next? Clearly the thrust of the movement was aimed at creating a space for discussing racism within the campus community. The recent organized protests have achieved this by drawing national attention to the racism at MU, however, the mere removal of Wolfe does not settle the issue at hand. If the problem is systemic racism, which it is, then the removal of a figurehead only tackles the problem on a superficial level. The removal of Wolfe can only be the beginning of the struggle, not the end. The movement must continue its fight and mobilization against racism within the University of Missouri system, but it cannot confine itself to just the University of Missouri. The University of Missouri system encompasses the University of Missouri (Columbia), the University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Missouri S&T (Rolla). In order to tackle systemic racism the struggle must spread to all of these campuses in order to create a system-wide united student and faculty bloc.
Progressive Youth Organization, having its base in Kansas City, must be instrumental in uniting with all black student groups and progressive faculty in the fight against racism in the University of Missouri system, especially at UMKC. Each campus community within the University of Missouri system faces its own struggle against the systemic racism present within the system, but we can only be victorious when united across all campuses. We must continue our fight against racism and not declare ourselves prematurely victorious when another administrator will fill the position of Wolfe, who will then preside over the same lingering racial inequalities and discrimination. The students at MU, Jonathan Butler, Concerned Students 1950, black athletes, and black faculty have demanded a fight against systemic racism within the University of Missouri system. Progressive Youth Organization recognizes this demand and insists that the fight must go beyond Wolfe, it must strike at the heart of the University of Missouri’s institutional racism by fighting against reactionary education policies, racist students, faculty, and groups, and the culture of white supremacy and violence that persists on U of M campuses.