Bigotry (n) – stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own. (Source: dictionary.com)
The headline read “This is just a beginning”, but if the current trend continues it could well have been the beginning of the end.
The headline was CNN’s, and the story told of students’ excitement in the fall of 2015 over the resignation of the University of Missouri president and later of its system chancellor resulting from protests led by a group called Concerned Student 1950.
Those protests came on the heels of the nearby Ferguson protests over the shooting of Michael Brown – widely recognized as the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Fallout over the protests continues nearly two years later. The number of incoming freshmen currently expected for the Fall, 2017 semester at Missouri is 35% lower than for the Fall, 2015 semester – a staggering figure that cannot be ignored or simply overlooked as an aberration. The simple truth is that those protests have led prospective students to look elsewhere for their post-secondary education.
But as one business owner recently found out the hard way, actually putting such thoughts into words can earn you a heap of trouble.
The truth can often – heck, is almost always – a hard pill to swallow, and unfortunately our society is becoming ever-more narrow-throated. It seems the only truth some will even recognize as true is that which aligns with their own belief system.
And so here we are nearly two years removed from that tumultuous fall of 2015 – when the nation seemed more divided than any time since perhaps as far back as 1968 – and the University of Missouri is seeing a dramatic dropoff in new student registration.
One must wonder where the progress lies in this scenario.
What has been accomplished, other than the crippling of an institution of higher learning that boasts one of the most diverse program offerings in the nation?
Was it the goal of protesters all along to increase minority representation among the student body through attrition?
In a university system which was already struggling to pay its faculty well enough to attract qualified minority applicants, how is Mizzou supposed to improve its compensation package without increasing tuition among a drastically reduced student population?
Even if we ignore the fact that no real evidence has been produced to verify the incidents which supposedly led to the creation of Concerned Student 1950, even if we ignore that now infamous video of a Missouri journalism professor attempting to quash the free-speech rights of a student reporter, even if we ignore that the student who led the protests denouncing white privilege was himself the product of a very privileged upbringing, we cannot ignore the fact that the future looks far less bright for Mizzou today than it did then.
So in an effort to help point them in a direction that might actually accomplish something worthwhile, here is a piece of advice for the U of M student body: Study the life of your school’s founder.
James Rollins was a wealthy slave owner. If a statue of him exists anywhere in Missouri, some social justice warrior is likely plotting to have that statue removed.
But James Rollins was also the kind of man who put the interests of his community – and his nation – ahead of his own. In fact, he was largely responsible for the approval of the 13th amendment to the US Constitution – you know, the one that abolished slavery. It’s a historical fact. You should look it up some time, even if you use a much-pilloried (at least among academics) website like Wikipedia.
Here, I’ll save you the trouble so your journalism prof won’t Wiki-shame you:
Rollins’ support of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, played a key part in its passage by Congress, sending the amendment to the states for ratification. The Senate passed the bill easily on its first vote on April 8, 1864, but the House defeated it twice in 1864 before passing it on January 31, 1865. Rollins initially voted against the bill. Shortly before the third vote, President Lincoln personally asked Rollins to support the amendment, as necessary to preserve the Union. Rollins agreed to do so. On January 13, 1865, two days after the Missouri Constitutional Convention abolished slavery there, he spoke for the first time for the amendment, in a lengthy and persuasive speech to Congress. With Rollins’ support, the amendment passed with the required two-thirds majority with just two votes to spare.
Yeah maybe now you’ll think twice about removing that statue. And while you’re at it, you might want to read that passage on how the U of M came to be located where it is. Some pretty enlightening facts there about your founder.
The point here being that James Rollins – considered the Father of the University of Missouri – was open minded enough to consider others’ points of view in order to achieve a higher good. And if you want true healing that will last and be an example of brotherhood to the rest of the nation, that’s what you need to do.
Bigotry exists. In fact, in some measure it exists in all of us stubborn and self-centered human beings – and if you’re unwilling to recognize that, you’re part of the problem.
You want to effect change? You want to save and even improve your institution? Instead of continuing to make demands, try having an open dialogue.
That prefix “di” would be a great place to start.