Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Is Missouri a hotbed of racism?

Is that a provocative question? I don't think so.
The reason I ask is because for the past year or two incidents have bubbled to the surface that lead me to think Missouri is firmly entrenched in a southern attitude towards race and in denial about it.

Let's take what's going on right now: University of Missouri President  Tim Wolfe resigned.
He didn't quit because he was ashamed that he had overly racist elements on campus.
He didn't quit because he was embarrassed by his inaction when students wanted to discuss what he was going to do about the racists elements. (Remember, he refused to talk with students who blocked his car at a parade).

He quit because if he didn't his school would have paid a $1 million penalty for not playing football this coming weekend.
He quit because students, professors and coaches stood in solidarity in demanding change.
He quit because he didn't get it - and still doesn't get it.

What I don't understand is how the public is appalled by the student protests. How the public is supporting the president because maybe they think the students are intimidating? Uppity?

So let's contrast Tim Wolfe with University of Oklahoma President David Boren - also a white man who had to confront racist elements at his school earlier this year.
When Boren was made aware of fraternity students chanting racist songs on a bus, he joined protesters. He banned the fraternity. He suspended students. He took action.

It's clear to me that the University of Missouri should hire Boren to clean up Wolfe's mess and rout out the racists on campus.

Let's move away from the university. I don't want to get into Ferguson mostly because much has been written and exposed about the racist and biased police department who harassed black residents resulting in the death of Michael Brown. It's not that I don't think the event is important. It is. But unfortunately, when it comes to Missouri, there is more racism to discuss.

I want to talk about the mostly black Normandy School District. This was the school district Brown graduated from before it lost its accreditation. In fact its accreditation was suspended for more than a decade before it was revoked. The school district was horrible, had crappy teachers and no real plan to provide students with an education.

When black students tried to go to Francis-Howell, a mostly-white neighboring school district to get an education, well the folks weren't going to have it.  
Despite a year of integration with few, if any problems, the white parents successfully lobbied state lawmakers to pass a law to boot out the black students. This was a shameful episode in Francis-Howell's history. A judged overruled the law and some black students returned to Francis-Howell, but for the students, it was a nightmare.

When you listen to the public hearing of Francis-Howell parents objecting to black students coming to the school district on NPR's "This American Life" you'll understand that the University of Missouri racism incidents are not a momentary blip in a bad time - but a common thread throughout the state.

Racism is alive and well in Missouri, and it's only up to enlightened Missourians to change it.

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