The good thing about the Internet is that it allows us to express ourselves and share our ideas with the entire world.
This is also the bad thing about the Internet.
I did not plan on writing a blog entry about this. I didn’t plan on becoming aggressively political on yet another form of social media; I didn’t plan on anything, really. I mean, I probably won’t say anything that you haven’t heard. If you have Internet access, I am sure you have seen it all by now: the hunger strike, Concerned Student 1950, the threats made to students of color in the wake of Wolfe and Loftin’s resignation.
But I cannot remain silent. I can’t. As I sit in the safety and comfort of my home in Columbia, students at Mizzou have been fighting for their cause. And it hasn’t been safe. All you have to do is open Twitter, YikYak, or Facebook to see the multitude of disgusting, ignorant comments.
But that’s not everyone, right? Those are isolated incidents. And they suck, but it doesn’t happen all the time. I don’t see people waving Confederate flags or anything, so…our campus is generally pretty decent.
Yeah, you know why it was so easy for me to brush them off as isolated incidents?
Because I am white.
I cannot help the fact that I am white, any more than I can help the fact that I am short or I have brown eyes. It is part of who I am. This is not bad; it simply is. I do think it would be bad to deny the fact that I am privileged because of my whiteness.
Now, before you roll your eyes and exit this page and start muttering things about how life isn’t easy just because you are white, please take the time to reflect on the meaning of white privilege. If you are white, I am going to ask you a very simple question:
Do you always think about your race?
I don’t. I think about my gender, because I am a woman, and with every e-mail that reports a case of sexual assault, I walk to my car a little faster. I keep my car keys clenched in my fists. I know to not leave my drinks unattended or go anywhere at night alone.
I am afraid of many things, but being called a racial slur is not one of them. I am not constantly afraid of being judged because of my race.
This does not mean that people are without their prejudices. Any person of any color can hate an individual simply because of their whiteness. It does mean, however, that I will not face the same systemic oppression as people of color. And for anyone who believes that Jonathan Butler–the grad student who declared he would be on hunger strike until Wolfe resigned–could not possibly be oppressed because his father is wealthy, I encourage you to read this article. ‘Privilege’ is a word people like to throw around without a lot of context (if you are on Tumblr, you are probably well aware of the stereotypical SJW who ends every post with ‘check your privilege’), and unfortunately, I think that has caused people to ignore what it truly means. I have certain privileges that other citizens do not, and vice versa.
The bottom line is this: I do not feel the weight of my race every single day.
It is called ‘privilege’ because because specific groups of people are being denied their rights.
It was easy for me to think of blatantly racist acts as isolated incidents. But injustice is hardly ever an isolated act; history will repeat itself until action is taken.
These protests were justified. They were not started just because someone’s feelings were hurt. As far as racism is concerned, there were several reasons, and it has been an ongoing battle for many students at MU for years. Black protestors were not the only ones to demand change on campus; protests were also held when MU cut ties with Planned Parenthood and when health insurance subsidies were cut. None of these protests received the same backlash as Concerned Student 1950 or Jonathan Butler.
Jonathan Butler did not go on a hunger strike because he was bored. Some think it was unreasonable; some think he pressured Wolfe into resigning.
Perhaps both are true, but my thoughts are this: he was willing to die to bring attention to his cause and inspire change.
That tells me everything I need to know.
It is unreasonable to think that a change of leadership at a public university will end racism. It won’t. That is completely disregarding hundreds of years of American history, and unfortunately, it is not that simple.
But look at what it has done.
MU has new leadership, which will hopefully have a ripple effect and change the campus as a whole. Universities all over the country are speaking up and standing in support of Mizzou. People like me have opened their eyes.
Change has to start somewhere. Why not the place we call home?
I love Missouri with all my heart. This week I have felt unbelievable anger and sadness. I cannot even imagine what it has been like to live through it every day.
We must use our voices, but we must also listen. If any of my information is incorrect, or any of my views misguided, please let me know. I am no longer a student, and so I have been on the outside of everything happening on campus. I learned about most of these situations this week or last, and I have done my best to stay informed and form an educated opinion.
It should go unsaid that any explicit or rude comments will be deleted. If you disagree with me, fine… but this is not a space for hatred.
I stand with you, Mizzou. Walk in love.