In a recent article, both the University of Missouri president and chancellor have resigned their positions due to the present conditions associated with racism in education. The covert racism that continues to control the system is a product of collective and not isolated values. The most effective process to eliminate alleged racism at the University of Missouri is to transform the culture through a process that involves leadership associated with teamwork.

According to the article, University of Missouri president and chancellor step down amid race row, students including a number of football players played a definitive role in the resignations. One graduate student, Jonathan Butler, ended his hunger strike after the removal of university system President Tim Wolfe. Approximately 30 Black and White football players demanded the resignation of the president. Otherwise they stated that they would not practice nor play again at the University of Missouri. If the football team had failed to take play Saturday against the Brigham Young University Cougars, the team would have been forced to pay a cancellation fee of $1 million, according to their previous contractual obligations. The University of Missouri athletic director Mack Rhodes and head football coach Gary Pinkel supported the demands of the football players. Rhodes stated that “As we move forward, it’s paramount as a campus and a community that this not divide us, but rather bring us together to listen, to grow, to understand and to create positive change.”

Herein lays the problem. While demonstrations are a constitutional right and can have an impact regarding racial injustices, the reality is that demonstrations resulting in opposition alone will not eliminate the alleged racism at the University of Missouri.

Why are student demonstrations such as the University of Missouri ineffective?

The ultimate idea of a student demonstration is to institute change. At the University of Missouri the student demonstrations resulted in the voluntary removal of the president and chancellor. This is paramount to removing the head of an octopus. Once the head of an octopus is removed, the tentacles are deadly enough to kill. It will be that same at the University of Missouri.

Even though the student protest have eliminated the head, the culture of the school will continue with it’s racism in a covert fashion. Students and staff that embrace racism will find unique ways to implement racism at the university. We know this because student protest against racism in education has existed since the 1960’s and the United States continues to have racism challenges.

The major challenge with racism is that it is a product of two separate visions. Those who embrace racism value dominance over the other race. In the United States this is the equivalent of White supremacy or White privilege. White supremacy is a form of racism centered upon the belief, and promotion of the belief, that white people are superior in certain characteristics, traits, and attributes to people of other racial backgrounds and that therefore whites should politically, economically and socially rule non-whites. White privilege is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in Western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.

Those who renounce racism value social justice. Social justice is “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society”. Social justice assigns rights and duties in the institutions of society, which enables people to receive the basic benefits and burdens of cooperation. The relevant institutions can include education, health care, social security, labour rights, as well as a broader system of public services, progressive taxation and regulation of markets, to ensure fair distribution of wealth, equal opportunity and equality of outcome.

How can the University of Missouri overcome the present racial challenges?

Since there is a difference in values associated with racism, the healing process can only become successfully by the development of a shared vision. Before the shared vision process university officials will need to select a team of approximately 25 connectors. After the shared vision development, the selected team should develop a strategic plan based on the shared vision. The strategic plan will include goals, objectives, timelines, and costs for the entire plan. The University of Missouri should support and finance the entire plan to overcome the clash values that lead to racism.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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