It's been a long week for the state of Missouri. First, a graduate student at the University of Missouri went on strike because of racial issues having gone unaddressed. Then, a group of African American football players on the Mizzou squad said they would no longer participate in any football related activities until the school president stepped down or was removed. This morning I woke up to the news that school faculty would stage a walkout at some point today standing in solidarity and support of the students on the campus and the issues they too saw on campus. But that walkout never happened. It wasn't necessary because late this morning the president of the University of Missouri system formally resigned. It was a shocker to most, coming just one day after President Tim Wolfe released a rather adamant statement that he would continue his job and somehow work through the issues that he never felt the need to be addressed previously. But ultimately the voice of students prevailed. And the onslaught did not stop there. Late this afternoon the school chancellor said he too would resign. It's the beginning steps in the healing process to a school and a community that has gone through so much.
Less than three miles away Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer in August of 2014. But there were no school statements, no school wide discussions, nothing. Students shared incidents of racial slurs being called the "n-word" while walking to and from class. Another student said a professor once said she was there because of affirmative action. It was incidents like these and others that led to built up frustration on the campus. Then, the tipping point came when a swastika was drawn with feces on the wall of a campus building. Many students had had enough. The school was not doing anything, so the students would make something happen.
The voices started small with demonstrations. They grew louder as time went on. There was the time when a group stood in front of Wolfe's car during a parade in a peaceful demonstration. Wolfe's driver revved the engine and had police escort them away. But still no conversation and little to no acknowledgement. The football team decided to step up and step up in a big way. Their sacrifice made this a national issue. The SEC football team said they would stand up for what they saw was right. Their head coach supported them. It was unbelievable to watch the number of events that unfolded. It was inspiring. It make so many people feel hopeful, but we must understand it's the beginning steps. There are real issues. There is teaching that needs to take place and there are demands that need to be met.
When people question diversity, they question true growth. Much of the ignorance going on around the world is rooted in the past and/or rooted from a place of misinformation. When people say black students take up most of financial aid, they're wrong. When they say all black people benefit most from affirmative actions they're wrong, women do. There are a lot of disconnects. It starts with education of facts and the education of different cultures from a young age. Then things will not be so foreign. As the University of Missouri enters into its second phase of healing, there needs to be an entire culture shift at the school. All the students need to be treated equality. All issues to any group should be treated with haste and seriousness. No student should be marginalized or like she/she does not belong. This is America we are talking about in 2015 and we continue to deal with real issues that should have been addressed a long time ago, but we push on. We learn and we grow.
We see what true democracy looks like. We see what real unity is. We see what we can do when we stand up together for a cause. We see our voice matters. If this is what we can do on a school level, imagine what we can do on a national stage.
Why do politics matter for black folk? Can one group who's been oppressed for so long continue to make strides without fully grasping or immersing themselves in politics? We have a black president in Barack Obama is all well. Not at all. Politics matter for everyone. It's the laws that make up how our society is run. It's the people put in the positions to make these laws. It's the makeup of the foundation of this country. It's everything. While we all need politics, certain groups need to understand politics more because life is not equal. Since the beginning of time specific groups have had direct and systematic advantages over other groups. In particular, white Protestant males have had the upper hand with land and business ownership, while women, minorities and gays have had an uphill battle. White Protestant males claim to have founded the country and start the government system. Things haven't changed since. With the passing of civil rights legislation, equality laws put in place and the passage of such bills as gay marriage, considerable strides in the last 70 years have been made. Yet most recently, these same gains have had an all out assault put on them. Voting rights have been scaled back, black males are being used as target practice by police and the wealth gap is at a fever pitch. What gives? While it seems often times the latest Jordan shoe release is top of many peoples' minds, there are other people working to restructure entire policies for states and municipalities. It matters.
A personal story of why politics matter for me. This past weekend I was pulled over after leaving Cornell University en route back to Syracuse. I was driving under the speed limit when I was pulled over by a cop with a full car of other collegiate, young black males. When he approached the car the first thing he said was, "Tell me where the weed is, and as long as it's under an ounce, I will be sure to get you guys right out of here." Only problem is, none of us had weed on us. He then asked for my license and registration to which I gave him with my college ID slipped under. He then yelled at me to get out of the car. I responded, "Sir with all due respect I know my rights and I did nothing wrong. If there is an issue you can let me know, but if you want to search my car you're going to need a warrant." The officer was taken aback. He called backup and continued to ask to search my car. I continued to say no and after ten minutes he let me go. He had no reason to pull me over and no reason to search the car. Yes the car was filled with five young black men, but we are all college educated. We are all law-abiding and yet we are at risk just as much as the next person. In the midst of all of this I was still disgusted. I was ashamed and annoyed. We had been stereotyped and incidentally pulled over for no reason. He said he smelled weed, but there was no weed to be found. All I could think was don't make any sudden moves so I did not end up another tragic story. But also, why did I have to justify who I was as a young man by sliding my college I.D. to the officer. All I knew was that I didn't want to find out otherwise. Another story similar to mine included a guy from South Carolina that was shot at multiple times by an officer after he was pulled over and told to get his license.
If I had not some sort of background in politics and current events this situation could have been different. I may not have understood what my actions could result in or what I could and could not do in that situation. It's people like Attorney General Eric Holder who fight for the rights of young black males as he seeks to reduce non-violent drug offenses for convicted persons in prisons. It's people like New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio with the work of Rev. Al Sharpton who work tirelessly to get crooked cops off the street and stop a dangerous practice of 'stop and frisk' in our communities that statistically does more harm than good. It's important to understand and know politics so you know your rights. Instead of fighting from the top down you can fight from the bottom up. We can elect persons to represent our communities and we can represent people to represent us. We need politics because politics is the people and the sooner we do, the sooner things start balancing out across the board.
lives by one word: achievement. in anything and everything, achieve.