The University of Missouri (also known as Mizzou) has been in the national spotlight since the beginning of November. Amid a hostile and racist campus climate felt by black students at the university, Jonathan Butler, a graduate student at Mizzou, declared that he would not consume any food at the expense of his health until President Tim Wolfe was removed from office. This act of extreme activism reverberated throughout the entire University of Missouri and set the stage for the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement, which gets its name from the year when the campus first enabled black students to attend and focuses on the black student experience in the last 65 years on the campus. Ultimately, this movement wouldn’t allowed black students on campus to feel unrecognized any longer. The extreme antics that were implemented by Butler and his fellow black students on their campus were strongly needed in order for them to see real and legitimate change on their campus.
The resignation of President Wolfe was a necessary step to appease the black students who were directly impacted by the racist actions that have occurred on the University of Missouri campus, including their student body president being called the “n-word” on campus and a Mizzou student drawing a swastika in a residential hall with their own human feces. He needed to be removed from campus because he wasn’t supporting black students’ right to a safe campus climate and his presidency wasn’t ameliorating the pressing issues on the campus. President Wolfe didn’t actively try to fight the problem and, thus he, was supporting it.
The importance of the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement inspired others to join in and support Butler, most notably the University of Missouri football team. Black and white players alike, with their head coach’s support, declared that they would not practice or play until Butler ended his strike. These student athletes recognized their collective power and utilized it in order to combat a university that didn’t recognize the humanity of black students on their campus.
Additionally, Missouri is a part of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which consist of schools that consider football as “religion.” It’s truly a defining aspect of all the universities that play within this conference and thus the actions of these players are all the more remarkable. They understand that they produce millions of dollars for their universities and how important football is to their schools but above all, the University of Missouri football team stood on the side of justice and remembered that football isn’t as important as the equality of all people. By supporting the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement, the football team made a strong statement on the important role that athletes have off the field.
I’m grateful for being able to witness such a powerful takedown of administration through the usage of social activism. This event epitomized how strong individuals are when they come together and engage in collective power. Butler’s courageous spirit exemplifies the saying “actions speak louder than words” and, in this particular case, his actions caused real and legitimate change. Thank you Jonathan Butler, the University of Missouri football team and the students at the University of Missouri for fighting for something you believed in and not enabling the system to silence you.