Editorial: We must come to terms with our racist past

This is the most urgent and authentic reaction that Loftin has had to an incident of racism on MU’s campus.

We need to change our campus culture if we want to break the tradition of racism at MU. We’ve seen several high-profile instances of students being racist toward each other this year, with the latest incident happening to members of the Legion of Black Collegians Homecoming Royalty at Traditions Plaza. Traditions Plaza, which was constructed to celebrate MU’s heritage.

Ironic, isn’t it?

And we finally got a halfway-decent recent response from our chancellor. Maybe it’s because his Twitter mentions haven’t been glowing or because it happened a stone’s throw from his office, but Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin we saw via video from South Africa was impassioned.

He bluntly stated that “Racism exists at MU,” and specifically named those who were affected by the incident at Traditions Plaza. In comparison, he called a recent incident involving Missouri Students Association President Payton Head an “incident of bias and discrimination.” It seems as though Loftin is finally on the same page as students regarding racism at MU.

He also responded quicker than in the past. This time, he posted a statement the next morning, rather than 6 days later, as was the case with Head’s incident. In a letter accompanied by a short video, Loftin asked students to join him in ending hatred and racism at MU.

Well, Chancellor, you may be late, but we’re nonetheless glad that you decided to finally show up.

It’s refreshing to see a response from Loftin where he isn’t hiding behind a blandly worded letter or a halfhearted referral to the Transparency website. This is the most urgent and authentic reaction that Loftin has given in response to incidents of racism on MU’s campus. He also recognized for the first time that “what we have been doing on campus to address racism has not been enough.” He outlined three measures to address campus race relations, which include:

“Vice Chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity: “Provost Stokes is leading a national search for this new position. We are searching for the best person who can understand the challenges we face and help us move toward a better future."”

“Diversity training for job searches: “Every person who is responsible for hiring faculty on this campus will be required to complete training to ensure that we are fully considering diversity when we recruit for positions on campus. We know that we have a disproportionately low number of faculty and staff from underrepresented groups. We want to change that.”

“Campus Climate Survey: “We will ask everyone to participate in a campus climate survey related to race issues on campus.”

The actions outlined by Loftin are a good start, but we need our administration to not only follow through, but also take further actions toward creating a discussion about racism across our campus.

Still, even with this new approach, Loftin doesn’t seem to have a full grasp of what MU students are upset about. Sure, the instances of blatant, overt and aggressive racism are the most visible and garner the most attention. But what about the subtle racism that finds its way into the lives of students every day on this campus?

It’s structural. It’s pervasive. It cannot be escaped.

It’s the kind of racism that is so deep-seated and passive that many members of our student body rarely recognize it.

We live on a campus that has struggled with racism throughout its entire existence. It’s very fitting that this happened at the beginning of Homecoming week, a celebrated MU tradition. In 1988, LBC hosted the first LBC Homecoming with the theme, “Show Me a New Mizzou,” in response to MU’s “Show Me Ol’ Mizzou” Homecoming. The reason the LBC Homecoming was created in the first place was because the “Ol’ Mizzou” theme recalled this school’s racist past.

We need to encourage an active discussion about this history and the implications that come along with it. One way of doing this would be the establishment of a diversity requirement, which is already far overdue. The questions and conversations provoked by such a diversity requirement are relevant to anyone who considers themselves an active member of our community. Another step toward creating a campus-wide conversation on this issue comes in the form of public forums, which still remain to be consistently seen on campus.

Everyone at MU, including The Maneater Editorial Board, needs to strive to thoroughly engage ourselves in this imperative discussion regarding racism on our campus. We cannot continue to react only to the blatant and overt incidents of racism. As a university, we need to end this reactionary strategy because it does nothing to address the larger structural problem of racism at MU.

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