By: Blake Flournoy
On Thursday, November 12, students may have noticed a large collection of students in black walking around campus. They may have noticed these students walking out of class suddenly, or perhaps they only noticed these students when they arrived outside the gazebo at 3:00 p.m., a unified group. Goucher students witnessed the Solidarity with Mizzou Walk-Out that occurred that day.
The event on Goucher’s campus was one of a number of ongoing student protests occurring across the nation, in an effort to bring attention to the protests happening at the University of Missouri since September of last year.
In September, Missouri Students Association President Payton Head, a black student, was called a racial slur by a group passing by in a pickup truck. Shortly after, the Legion of Black Collegians (LBC), a student government organization, was rehearsing for the campus homecoming parade when a drunk white student yelled yet more slurs at them. On homecoming night, the LBC and other concerned students confronted school president Tim Wolfe in his car to protest these treatments, only to be ignored, hit by the car, and harassed and attacked by police officers.
It should be noted that this was a peaceful protest. The movement name, “Concerned Student 1950,” references the year that the first black student was admitted to Mizzou. Through a series of nonviolent protests, sit-ins, and “Racism Lives Here” events, the group has pressed for a series of reforms, including but not limited to the resignation of President Wolfe – a resignation which was recently achieved, though not without a threatened faculty walk-out and the threat of the football team refusing to participate in any events. Though Wolfe has resigned, many protesting students (and black students in general) are facing serious death threats.
On Goucher’s campus, students gathered around the gazebo to show solidarity with students at Mizzou at the scheduled time. Once there, event organizer (and noted campus activist) Arthur Mutijima ‘18 gave a speech to the unified crowd. Mutijima called to the crowd – and to the campus as a whole – for solidarity with students of color off-campus and on, and for Gophers to actively work towards legitimate, substantial change. These changes call for the following: for the black experience on campus to consist of more than just an optional LER course, and for students to use the resources and activism groups present on campus to do some good, and actually help solve problems in a concrete, meaningful way. This would be opposed to merely making loose, meaningless shows of solidarity – like wearing black, leaving class early when given an excuse to do so and standing in a crowd when asked, for example.
There was no loud and proud open protest after the speech, no chanting, no rally to take a physical action, much to the surprise of many students. Mutijima stood up, said his piece to the crowd and stepped down. It left much of the crowd (made up of plenty of white students) with an unfortunate sense of indecision and confusion.
As the event also fell on the same date as a #Blackout (a social media event promoting black confidence and beauty through a flood of selfies and other photos), a small number of photographers moved about taking group photos of students participating in the event. Before everyone dispersed and the event ended, many students grouped up to talk idly.
When asked what the core take-away of his speech was, Mutijima answered that it was for Goucher students “to stand in solidarity with black students across the nation facing actual death threats, whilst acknowledging and engaging the racism prevalent within our own communities in forms of anti-intellectualism on campus that allows folks to still think that racism against white people is actually a thing.”
Students looking to heed Mutijima’s words and who would like to tap into some of the resources on campus are encouraged to seek out Umoja, the Women of Color Coalition, the Social Justice Committee and similar organizations. White students in particular may wish to go to a Confronting Our Racism Coalition (CORC) meeting on Wednesdays from 6-7 p.m. For more on this and related topics, look forward to follow-ups in the next issue.