Oftentimes, the tactics people employ in their struggles for justice will illustrate the gravity of the situation. For instance, the iconic image of a Palestinian kid squaring off against an Israeli tank with a rock in his hand showed me a long time ago how desperate the plight of the Palestinians was and is to this day. Then there’s folks like Julia Butterfly Hill, who took it upon herself to protest clear-cutting in northern California Redwood forest country by living in a tree for a little over two years from December 2007-December 2009, raising consciousness of a larger situation by employing a severe tactic to get people to know she’s serious. She is quoted as saying, “We live in a world that is full of problems, and we are the solutions to those problems.”
That is the spirit Jonathan Butler’s (@_JonathanButler) hunger strike in Columbia, Missouri invokes. He has gone about a week with no food, drinking only water, and will continue until his body shuts down or until University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigns due to his inadequate actions in dealing with racism on campus. When seen within the larger context of our society, it is completely understandable.
This is not about being “politically correct”. This is not about using “the race card.” This is about an individual who has drawn a line in the sand and would rather die for his convictions than see the status quo perpetuated when it comes to Black people being terrorized. I don’t use that word lightly, it accurately portrays the climate of racial tension here in the United States regarding Black people these days. Just look at the news cycle over the last year or so; When I see that George Zimmerman gets to walk free so he can tweet crime scene pictures of Trayvon Martin’s body, when I see that cops went out and got Dylann Roof cheeseburgers after he murdered 9 Black people in Charleston, SC earlier this year, when I have seen Eric Garner get illegally choked to death for no reason while at least ten cops stand by watching, when an official explanation from an investigation into Freddie Gray’s death comes back stating his spine was severed while bouncing around in the back of a truck while handcuffed, I know that I am witnessing America’s violent and terroristic backlash to strides made in the last few years towards societal equality.
Quick side note: there’s a concept of mine (I believe it’s mine anyways) that I’d like to touch on real quick before moving on, it’s always helped me figure out how to parse personal (lower-case-r) racism and structural (capital-R) Racism. I believe our language regarding race is outdated and for my two cents on the subject, I offer this: Racism is at an institutional level, and racism is interpersonal and universal. Anyone can be a racist and discriminate against another for the color of their skin/their culture, but Racism affects people of color because they are disproportionately treated unfairly by the State/institution due to the color of their skin/their culture. Now, if anyone wants to bring up affirmative action as Racism after reading that list above, you should probably just move on. We have nothing to discuss.
Back to the story: Columbia, Missouri is a college town containing University of Missouri’s campus, a small community less than 120 miles away from Ferguson, the community that has been in the middle of a firestorm in the United States for over a year since unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown was gunned down by officer Darren Wilson, something he was not even punished for. That incident changed things in Columbia for the worse. This year has seen several incidents of black students having been harassed by emboldened white people on campus shouting that most notorious of racial slurs at them. While one of the students was identified and removed, not enough had been done to help Black people feel safe on campus, as is reported by the Independent. What seems to have been the final straw for Mr. Butler is a swastika that was drawn in shit on a dorm wall late last month.
That kind of imagery along with the threat of KKK violence during a previous incident has enough gravity that members of Mizzou staff, faculty, and the football team along with its coaches have stood up over the weekend in solidarity with Mr. Butler.
— Blavity (@Blavity) November 9, 2015
Even Mizzou alumni are getting involved, a few have sent in their #lastpenny until Wolfe is fired:
— Daniel Stribling (@DanielStribling) November 9, 2015
The momentum building in Columbia should be enough to get President Wolfe out as well as get some food in Jonathan’s belly, and a blow to Racism will be dealt thanks to his sacrifice. Will it go beyond the campus to the outside world?
So far, 6,602 signatures have been garnered to remove Tim Wolfe as president.
According to the Associated Press, Wolfe has resigned.
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