Column: 'One Mizzou' puts patriotism over cultural pluralism
Apr. 12, 2011
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
During the course of the semester, diversity has routinely come up as a topic of concern on campus and in the community. We foamed at the mouth when that dreadlocked kid spray-painted unmentionables on campus property and we were disappointed when all the university did was suspend him.
And within the community of people who actually read the news, there was much celebration when the diversity course initiative passed through Faculty Council, a large, but by no means final, step toward implementing a diversity course requirement.
And now, we have the “One Mizzou” campaign, what some call a “new beginning” in a collective attempt to “promote diversity and end discrimination” in our community In a glowing, rosy-cheeked article on the matter, The Maneater provided a collective circle-jerk platform for campus leaders to sing praises about the initiative. What could be more assuring than an article opening with the newsworthy mention of Brady Deaton smiling?
“Inspired,” “positive reaction,” “enthusiasm,” “respect” and “responsibility” are just some of the buzzwords used to describe the initiative, which makes Deaton feel like “we have truly arrived at the base of the mountain.”
“The only colors that matter to us at Mizzou are black and gold,” Missouri Students Association President Eric Woods said.
Or are they?
I apologize for being such a troll about this. I’m not trying to minimize the accomplishments of those who worked toward this, and I’m also not trying to minimize our communal need for something to address the diversity issues we deal with. One Mizzou can have an extraordinary impact on campus, and taking a shit on it and running away is clearly unproductive.
But I’m not one to pretend it’s actually addressing the things that impact students in real life.
As an LGBT student, part of a community that this initiative radiantly purports to protect, I’m growing tired of hearing about overarching initiatives whose intention is to put an end to chronic symptoms of diversity ignorance. For me, direct discrimination is not something I truly believe is addressed by initiatives under the guise of romanticized communal pledges.
Frankly, compared to safety and support, the idea of only needing to care about black and gold merely resonates false patriotism and makes me roll my eyes.
Why don’t we create gender-neutral housing initiatives that create safe homes for those who desire them, rather than sign symbolic pledges meant to “(reside) in our hearts and minds?”
Why don’t we hire residence hall staff members who see Safe Space training as more than just an option that gives you brownie points? Why don’t staff members learn how to actually hold conversations with their residents who feel at risk, rather than build up diversity issues so much that staff members are hesitant and afraid to reach out when things actually come up?
Even broader, when we rattle off the list of diversity groups we intend to recognize, why is gender identity the optional caboose, subjected to a position of vague relevance compared to race, sexuality, etc.?
And getting back to before, although I know it might not specifically be The Maneater’s responsibility to be skeptical of One Mizzou in its article, I’m annoyed that the article implies all diversity groups gave the stamp of approval on the initiative.
I’m not pretending to be the mouthpiece of all opposition to One Mizzou, but I have a hard time believing there aren’t people who feel patronized when MU’s big shots and MSA hand down half-assed, symbolic spirit initiatives that don’t address concrete issues.
So was it most relevant to get twinkling quotes from Brady Deaton, who calls it “the proudest moment” he’s had in his regime or Woods, whose MSA budget can put a dollar sign in front of the idyllic jargon of Department of Student Services Director Greg Loeffler?
Or would it potentially have been worthwhile to talk to those who the bill purports to represent? I would hope.
Am I annoyed by all of this, because it’s just not to my taste or because I don’t legitimately feel like minority groups were given a voice to the extent MSA feels they were? Maybe. Am I annoyed because, aside from this, I don’t give a shit about Mizzou patriotism? Yes, I’m probably more cynical than most.
But legitimately, our need for safety and inclusion is not addressed by watered- down manifestos. Talk to the people who are actually at risk. Talk to the people who are actually disenfranchised.
Quit writing fluff PR. Quit putting Tiger Pride over cultural pluralism. It’s time to liberate our initiatives from false symbolism to action that affects real people in real contexts.