Students called racial slur near MizzouRec
The incident happened at about 11:15 p.m.
Nov. 07, 2015
Another white man called MU students the n-word last night for the third time publicly known this year.
The latest incident comes amid a growing conversation about race relations at MU. Concerned Student 1950 has been camping out for six days in support of graduate student Jonathan Butler, who is on a hunger strike until UM System President Tim Wolfe is removed. Wolfe angered students Friday evening with his definition of systematic oppression.
“Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success,” he said.
The video was posted to Twitter around 9:30 p.m. Friday. Later that night, sophomores Alexis Ditaway and Amber Letbetter were walking to the Legion of Black Collegians Freshman Action Team’s annual dodgeball event around 11:15 p.m. when they were approached by four white men, according to a statement posted on Twitter.
The men, visibly intoxicated and dressed in “white button-down dress shirts and neckties,” were walking along the same path between the Student Recreation Complex and Hawthorn Residence Hall, according to the letter.
Ditaway said in her letter that the most intoxicated of the four called them the racial slur. He was recording a Snapchat video.
“You’re a nigger,” one of the men said to Ditaway and Letbetter.
“There was a silence among all six of us, as Amber and I stopped walking out of shock that the young man would boldly make such a statement,” Ditaway wrote in the letter. “The young man that was walking behind them quickly slapped his friend’s shoulder and said ‘hey, you can’t say that.’”
One of the other men with him then told Ditaway and Letbetter that the man wasn’t talking to them, which Ditaway doesn’t believe.
“He looked directly at myself and Amber and then said, ‘You are a nigger’ to his phone,” she said in an interview. “Even if he wasn’t saying it to us, saying it aloud and in our presence is a problem.”
Earlier this year, Missouri Students Association President Payton Head detailed his encounter in a viral Facebook post and the LBC Homecoming royalty court experienced something similar at Traditions Plaza during a play rehearsal.
Ditaway wrote in the letter they were “in anger and disbelief” over the incident.
“To be a student at an ‘elite’ university and be disrespected in such a way is disappointing,” Ditaway wrote. “... And to have this event occur in the midst of the protesting and action being taken by #ConcernedStudent1950, yet we are still questioned as to why we continue to fight against administration is absolutely insane.”
MU currently doesn’t have a policy in place to discipline students who use the n-word. When racial slurs were yelled at Head, he was told that the people were protected by free speech, according to previous Maneater reporting. Then in October, when a man yelled racial slurs at members of the LBC Homecoming court, MU said the suspect was “moved” from campus and didn’t provide additional information about the conduct process for the student.
“We need harsher punishments,” Ditaway said. “They know they are going to get a slap on the wrist.”
Ditaway said a policy would be “a step in the right direction.”
Ditaway said she’s handling the incident well physically. She said she’s still trying to process what happened emotionally and mentally. The letter she posted on Twitter was one way to process the incident.
Ditaway and Letbetter then contacted MU Police Department, per the letter.
Ditaway said she thought it took MUPD a little too long to respond. She said she wished she would’ve been in the physical presence of an officer rather than relaying the information via phone.
MUPD Maj. Brian Weimer said in an email that officers went to the area last night to try to identify the suspects based on descriptions they were given. Police are still searching for the individuals involved, Weimer said, but no one has been identified yet.
Weimer said MUPD is “actively patrolling the campus” to protect the safety of students of color.
“All students safety is our concern and we need the Community’s help to make things safe as we cannot be everywhere on campus all the time,” Weimer said in an email. “If you experience a crime or a hateful incident like this call our department immediately so you can get the parties identified and take action.”
Letbetter is a member of the United Ambassador Student Recruitment Team and 2015 LBC Homecoming Royalty Court. Ditaway is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and Residence Halls Association as well as an ambassador for the Student Success Center.
“It’s difficult to deal with,” she said of being involved on campus while being a victim of racism. She said her campus involvement stems from feeling like she has ideas and talents to contribute and not just to build her resume.
“Black students on this campus have something to give, want to give and want to be more involved,” she said. “Yet, so often (they are) discouraged from what’s happened on this campus.”