“Muslims aren’t actually American” freshman Ameerah Sanders wrote on the wall.
But Sanders was born in Alabama. She is a Muslim.
“It makes me mad,” Sanders said. “Stereotypes prevent people from getting to know other people. I don’t like being put in a box.”
MU students who have received similar stereotyping or discrimination came together Tuesday evening in The Shack for the Missouri Students Association’s 10th annual Hate Wall event.
The event is hosted by the MSA Multicultural Issues Committee.
“The purpose of this event is to break down stereotypes in different communities,” MCI chairman Payton Head said. “A lot of times … it’s really hard to take a walk in someone else’s shoes if you don’t interact with other people who are in different shoes than you, or might come from a completely different place. Hate Wall gives that chance for these students to have a voice.”
As a new student at MU, Head had his heart set on pursuing political science and international studies.
His experiences on campus showed him that student groups were being marginalized. The One Mizzou he was being promised was not present.
Then, Head discovered MCI. It was perfect for him. He began as just an observing member, one who didn’t often throw himself into the main events hosted by the committee.
Now a sophomore, Head runs the committee and the two large events that MCI hosts every year, Hate Wall and SWIPES, a biannual program that asks students to donate their extra food swipes at the end of the semester to a local pantry.
Getting involved with these programs made Head want to pursue diversity even more.
“We want people to understand each other and their backgrounds … and embrace that culture too,” Head said.
There is in actual wall present at this event. Students who attend are invited to write hateful, racist or marginalizing stereotypes.
“Everyone has different aspects of their personality that is formed by who they are and where they come from,” freshman MSA Sen. Rasheeq Nizam said. “I feel like it’s important that people understand that.”
Nizam wrote about a stereotype on the wall that he has heard.
“I’m Muslim, and something that people have to say about me is that I’m a terrorist,” he said.
Discrimination and stereotyping appear to have a place on MU’s campus. It may be not as overt, but it’s there nonetheless, junior Camille Hosman said.
“No one deals with the same type of discrimination,” Hosman said. “Everyone is going to see prejudice in a different way.”
Senior Kelsey Kupferer also made an appearance at the event as part of the Diversity Peer Educators program. After several years of being an educator, Kupferer is now the coordinator of the program.
Student groups and faculty can request a diversity facilitation on campus to prompt conversations on race, class, gender or sexuality.
“I think that a lot of prejudice and discrimination takes place because people are not well informed about these issues because we don’t like to talk about them,” Kupferer said. “It’s not seen as socially acceptable.”
At Hate Wall, Kupferer facilitated a creative exercise used by the program titled “the guided fantasy.” This exercise is used to get people to put themselves in someone else’s shoes that is completely different from their own.
Kupferer asked the participants to imagine a world where homosexuality was the norm and heterosexuality, and anyone who associated with being heterosexual, was seriously discriminated against.
The Hate Wall is always concluded with the event’s volunteers knocking down the wall, a symbolic way of defeating the hateful words written upon it by MU students.
“It’s very liberating, honestly,” Head said. “People experience hate on all different levels and to be able to tear that down symbolizes our efforts to move forward.”