Letter to the Editor: Maneater editorial ignores work of advocates on campus

The work of four of our campus’ most influential groups should not be trivialized by an event’s title.

Before you begin to even conceive some sort of notion in your mind that everyone involved with the MU4MikeBrown initiative is a “thug”, “ignorant” or “extreme radical” in any way, let me point one thing out. We are college students. Not any old college students, but MIZZOU students, which means that we have the same mental capacity as all of you and are receiving an education at the same place you are. I will return to that point in a moment.

The editorial about the MU4MikeBrown initiative and the upcoming D-Day event is problematic, offensive and condescending on a couple different levels because it implies that the organizers of this movement are not aware of the impact or image they are creating. It also implies that we are contradicting our own movement , and that we are pulling attention away from the actual issues because of “poor language choices”.

I have a question: Do we make you uncomfortable? Does the thought of Black students and our allies of different races coming together to speak out against the unjust killings and treatments of our own make you nervous? Good. We understand that “ongoing unrest isn’t solely about a single event”, and we often use that knowledge when spreading awareness to and educating those around us. When we read the stories of John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Yaz’min Shancez, Tyisha Miller, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Rekeia Boyd, Aiyana Jones...we’re educating people and shedding more light on the issue of police brutality and the reluctance of the justice system in supporting us. Our detractors try to use that fact when recalling unsubstantial facts like “black on black crime is still prevalent” or make comments like “they kill each other all the time.” Those comments lead to an even larger discussion that I won’t begin to touch on here, but they remind us why we are participating in this movement in the first place. But, that sort of language is not questioned? Those statements don’t connote anything besides sheer commentary?

I can not speak on whether “D-Day” was chosen as the title for a specific reason, but I can say we are informed enough to know of the title’s origins and the implication that we would not know that projects the idea that we may be less educated.

I risk speaking for the whole community but will say that We are tired. Our stories, our life experiences are constantly being invalidated by systemic oppressions set in place by people in power. We are fighting every single day to be taken seriously in all aspects, from a national perspective all the way down to our own campus. Since this movement began, we have faced extremely rude and ignorant comments on every step of the way. People have belittled the hard work we have been doing to stereotypes and ignorant tropes, and if you don’t believe me then look at the comment sections of any of the articles that the Missourian or Columbia Tribune have ran about us. People outside of this initiative are doing all that they can to not only denounce what is going on in Ferguson, the larger issues at hand AND those involved in the movement. They are also trying their hardest to criminalize Michael Brown, even in his death (again, a larger conversation that can be saved for another Letter to the Editor), and the young individuals involved who are peacefully protesting his unjust & untimely death.

Do we make you uncomfortable? Probably so. Because we’re showing you that we have learned from what our ancestors, our grandparents, our parents, our siblings and our friends have gone through. We’re standing in solidarity with one another to demonstrate that we recognize the privilege of our youth and we will not sit by silently as more of our sisters and brothers are wasted or treated as lesser than. For far too long we’ve seen our community be treated unfairly and have been told “that’s just how it is.”

To quote a few prominent black leaders OTHER than Martin Luther King Jr, let’s remember Bayard Rustin saying “when an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity upon him.” We can also remember Malcolm X delivered an entire speech speaking out against police brutality and the corrupt system. He also speaks about our community taking charge of our own change. Is that not what we are trying to do? So many students have been empowered and educated by being involved with this movement. We know exactly what we’re doing. We are not just random young, insolent, kids that decided to come together for a cause we know nothing about. We’re college educated and understand what’s happening in our world and, more importantly, how we can change that.

What began as an editorial saying we simply chose the wrong name for our event ended up being a warning to steer-clear from being too “emotionally charged” and basically, to be conscious of the image we are going to cast by reacting to the decision (“When the decision breaks, all eyes will be on our state, and MU students need to be aware of the intense public sphere in which they’ll be demonstrating.”). To say that our language can “lose its power of persuasion” is ignoring the overall impact of our work so far. I’ll end this with saying, don’t worry about our image. The organizations you all listed are some of the top minority organizations on this campus. Our Legion of Black Collegians is the only one like it in the country. Four Front Minority Student Leaders Council has done, and been doing incredible work for this campus and its underrepresented communities. Our chapter of the NAACP has been educating our community and historically has been the first voice against any racial injustices happening on campus. And MU4MikeBrown, a collective of students, and leaders, from all sorts of organizations, is helping people lose the fear of raising their voice.

So thank you for your kind words and for your efforts in covering what we do, that is needed, appreciated and by no means should it stop. However, please do not lead us to believe that your intention is sullied because of opinions like this. Also, please do not think our emotions invalidate our actions or responses. We are trying to get people to understand by any means we can.

- Ashley Bland, anb3t4@mail.missouri.edu

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