Jonathan Butler decided to stop eating Nov. 2. Butler, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, made his decision after Mizzou President Tim Wolfe declined to respond to “several instances of racism and discrimination in the past months,” according to a Nov. 2 Maneater article. Butler promised he would not “consume any ‘food or nutritional sustenance’ and will continue to do so until Wolfe is removed from office or ‘his internal organs fail,’” according to the same article.
Butler was not alone in his stand against Wolfe and the racially charged incidents that occurred at Mizzou. Incidents began to escalate at Mizzou’s campus Sept. 11 when senior Payton Head, the president of the Missouri Students Association and an African-American, was verbally abused because of his race during his walk home, according to a Nov. 6 Washington Post article. As the incidents began to grow in number, Butler became involved with Concerned Student 1950, a movement created out of a demand for action from Wolfe regarding the events — which included an Oct. 24 incident where human feces were used to draw a swastika on a dormitory wall — according to a Nov. 9 NBC article. As Butler’s hunger strike continued, black members of Mizzou’s football team refused to “participate in any ‘football-related’ activities” until Wolfe either resigned or was removed from his position as president of the university, according to a Nov. 8 NBC article.
Wolfe resigned Nov. 9, followed by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who will be transitioning to a new role starting Jan. 1, according to a Nov. 9 CNN article. Shortly after Wolfe announced his resignation, Butler ended his hunger strike, according to the same article.
We, the Index Editorial Board, would like to applaud Butler’s bravery and dedication to his beliefs, though we wish he had not felt compelled to starve himself for nearly seven days. The actions of Concerned Student 1950 were meant to create change, and it seems change is very much on its way at Mizzou. We only hope it is a positive change, not a negative one.
We, the Editorial Board, are grateful Truman State has a president who is willing to open his office doors and listen to our concerns. While our campus is small, our student body is no less passionate about addressing racism, sexism and homophobia on campus. We are grateful there have been few incidents where a student has been targeted because of their race, sexuality or gender and the few incidents that have occurred have been handled swiftly and efficiently by the University.
But, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Standing up for your beliefs is essential when facing racism, sexism and other forms of oppression. This is why we applaud Butler for his resolve — though we implore no Truman student ever resort to a hunger strike to be heard — because he stood up for his beliefs and refused to back down.
We understand sometimes it is easy to give up when faced with a difficult challenge. The challenge of combating oppression seems almost impossible, but historically, humanity has overcome the impossible countless of times. Once upon a time, it was believed humans would never fly, much less reach space and walk on the moon. Equality may seem like an impossible goal now, but that doesn’t mean people should stop trying to achieve it. Affecting change doesn’t have to be done through a hunger strike — that should be an absolute last resort — or even through campus-wide protests.
The doors for peaceful discourse are now open and it’s time we all — not just the Editorial Board, the student body or even Kirksville, but the global community as a whole — walk hand-in-hand through it. The events at Mizzou should serve as a catalyst for Truman and the Kirksville community to begin looking inward now, before any situation becomes even more drastic. What are the major issues affecting our campus community and the community at large? How can they be addressed swiftly and efficiently before they become major problems? How can individuals help maintain Truman’s inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for everyone?
We, the Editorial Board, ask that every Truman student seriously consider these questions and discuss them during the coming days. The only way inclusiveness and equality can be achieved is if the community stands together to address the obstacles standing in the way.