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Column: The thorny journey of One Mizzou

Sean Nahlik

March 2, 2012

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

For the past two years, certain (see: white, male) students have found creative ways to remind minority students of their “lesser place” at Mizzou through public racist acts, such as scattering cotton balls in front of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center two years ago and spray-painting “fuck n-word month” in front of Hatch Hall last year. After Benjamin Elliott (a white dude with dreadlocks — I wish I was making this up) branded the already ugly sculpture in front of Hatch Hall, select students, staff and faculty gathered to discuss what to do next. The idea that emerged was One Mizzou, a proactive response to the racist shit that kept popping up on campus. 

Things did not go as planned. Now, though I understand it is hard to assemble students, the representation was a joke. The first meeting of One Mizzou did not include students from the Legion of Black Collegians, which arguably represented the interests of the students targeted. It didn’t include a lot of people that weren’t Missouri Students Association or Residence Halls Association-affiliated. The Multicultural Issues committee of MSA was there, but I don’t have enough room to critique the MCI committee in my column today. Just understand it was not what I would call inclusive.

So what happens when you put government-oriented, get-events-planned-now minded students together with minority organization leaders? Fast-forward to the second One Mizzou task force meeting, where it all fell apart.

Everyone and their mother showed up to this second meeting: organizations representing religion, race, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and expression — the entire gambit. What happened was unfortunate. MSA President Eric Woods was late that day; he had somehow been elected the de facto leader of the group (already problematic) so another MSA executive lead the meeting. 

When newcomers wanted to take part in the initiative’s creation and questioned why a logo had been selected, the MSA exec stood his mighty white self up and, becoming frustrated, told the group something along the lines of “This is what we decided last week, and this is what we’re doing.” He made sure to make his point by using both of his arms to push the decision to the group.

Poor choice, bro. He might as well have said, “Sorry, minorities, but big white MSA has already taken care of things.”

A week later LBC sent everyone what I read as a “fuck you guys” letter, questioning why MSA thought it was the one in charge of an initiative designed to stop campus racism.

Those who stayed on the committee — I bailed after LBC’s letter--put together a “One Mizzou launch” event in the spring. T-shirts were tossed out and Chancellor Deaton experienced his, “proudest moment as Chancellor,” according to a previous Maneater article. It was all very symbolic and nice and meaningless. It was a bland attempt to create a new “black and gold,” or some other such melting-pot catchphrase intent on telling students to ignore difference and assimilate to white culture already.

Present day. For a whole semester, the MSA, RHA, GPC presidents, LBC president and vice president, and Four Front chairman have been meeting to reboot One Mizzou. We’ve made goals, reached out to organizations, and built a website. We’ve done some marketing strategy. We’ve presented to FIGs explaining our new ideology of full inclusivity. 

One Mizzou is re-emerging as a reminder to students that difference is all around them and the university is crawling with events and resources freely available to those willing to learn. We are choosing events for an online calendar, highlighting work that is already being put in by students and staff. Hopefully the anti-racism initiative that was actually sort of racist in the beginning will be able to foster something meaningful among students as it moves forward.

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Article comments

March 3, 2012 at 10:29 a.m.

Student: Interesting how a white male involved with One Mizzou during it's so called "low period" is criticizing it.

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