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Exclusion in Missouri hinders resolution

The nation has watched the events unfold at University of Missouri Colombia, or Mizzou. Since August, a number of protests have occurred, and now, it seems the tensions have finally reached their peak.

A group called Concerned Student 1950 is fighting for racial equality on campus. However, I completely disagree with how this group is going about its cause.

I lived in Missouri for 14 years, about two hours south of Mizzou, in a town called Nixa. Mizzou has always been close to my heart, as it’s a large school back home that a number of the people I love attend.

On Oct. 20, Concerned Student 1950 released a list of eight demands for the school to abide to appease the movement. This list included demands for President Tim Wolfe to write a letter of apology, demanding he “acknowledge his white male privilege, recognize that systems of oppression exist and provide a verbal commitment to fulfilling Concerned Student 1-9-5-0 demands.”

The demands also included that Wolfe resign; that amendments to policies be made to allow a board of diverse students and staff vote for the next president; that the school introduces diversity courses that may only be maintained by a board of students, staff and faculty of color; that by 2017 the percentage of black faculty and staff be increased to 10 percent; that a 10- year plan be established to increase retention of minorities and funding for campus resource centers be increased so that new professionals — particularly those of color — may be hired and boost outreach on campus.

Here’s where my issue begins. I was raised in a town where I knew maybe 10 people of any other race or ethnicity. The rest of us were white. We were raised with the fear of God, told drugs were bad and any form of premarital sex labeled you a whore. I’m about as white as it gets, and I’m talking about black issues. Guess I need to check my privilege.

Normally, I would be all for this cause. The dominant culture I experienced in Missouri was oppressive, not only in terms of racism, but in bodily expression, homophobia and intolerance. Not everyone participated in this culture, but from my own life and experience, this was the dominant culture.

Here’s the difference: at 16, I left Nixa and moved to Miami. I came to appreciate diversity because of the people who reached out to me and taught me about their cultures. Some of my best friends are from Miami, and I’ve idolized them because they’re so different from me yet were willing to show me that life is so much more than just one perspective.

Many people I interacted with in Missouri don’t know the luxury of diversity. They don’t know how to react to other cultures or how to respect them. Sometimes it’s intentional, but a lot of the time, it isn’t.

I completely stand behind the idea of equality and the right to be heard, as there are millions of issues blacks face in this country every day. They are discriminated against and harassed. There is no denying that fact. But, this isn’t a fight for equality anymore; it’s a fight for superiority.

Here’s the reality: People are jerks, no matter where you go. You can’t stop someone from being ignorant and saying or doing offensive things, even if those things are unforgivable.

Racism will always exist. Homophobia, misogyny and misandry will always exist. Hate will always be prevalent; it’s what we do with that hate that defines us.

Our generation is capable of so much more than spreading more hate, which is exactly what many of the student protesters are doing. Screaming racism in every direction only incites more racism. During her first rally, The Maneater student newspaper quoted graduate student Danielle Walker saying, “Even though you all may never utter a racial slur, you are just as guilty, because you are not speaking up.” This is not productive. It’s not mature, and it isn’t doing any favors for the cause.

The first mistake of Concerned Student 1950 was singling itself out. I’m not saying it was wrong to speak out about its issues. What I think is wrong is that the group has put itself in a place of exclusion. Its demands have only enhanced this exclusivity, as all demands only benefit students of color rather the campus as a whole.

Where these demands could have positive effects for the entire campus, I feel they aren’t going about it in the most productive way. Diversity needs to come, and it is completely valid to aim for having a more diverse faculty and staff, but that diversity cannot be limited to people of color. Diversity needs to come from the correct people for the job, regardless of race or ethnicity. If this movement truly wants diversity, it needs to look out for all minorities, not just their own.

It isn’t as if Mizzou has not tried to appease the movement. Before the list of demands was released, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Oct. 8 that by January 2016, all students, faculty and staff will have to participate in mandatory diversity and inclusion training. This progressed even further Oct. 14 when Angela Speck, a professor and chair of the Faculty Council Diversity Enhancement Committee, published a proposal to have a psychology class in diversity be recommended to all students.

It’s time to educate and look beyond classifications such as race, skin color, orientation and beliefs, as none of those classifications have anything to do with passion, drive or enthusiasm. We should realize that success and the things we want for ourselves and others comes from the energy we exude.

At the end of the day, we have to understand, collectively, that we cannot change the situations we are given. There are problems in Missouri that need to be addressed, but they can only be addressed in a way that includes everyone and excludes no one.

About The Author

Aiden Strawhun

Aiden Strawhun, infamously known as “Ginger,” is a sophomore at FGCU majoring in journalism and minoring in creative writing. Originally hailing from Nixa, Missouri, Aiden has joined Eagle News to be the ultimate word nerd. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found binge gaming on the latest releases or drowning her sorrows in Asian cooking.

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