Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Understanding Missouri's Racism

I once worked at the most racist place I've ever been-- the University of Missouri. My job title was assistant to the president. In Missouri the president is over the four Chancellor's who run the campuses which stretch from St. Louis to Kansas City.
I was there a month before I began planning to leave. The racism was overpowering. Once African-Americans complained. The then mayor of Columbia told them if they didn't like it they could leave.
I was put on the task force to take University investments out of South Africa. I met some wonderful people on that panel, including an African-American professor who was an exceptional human being. He was close friends with a professor from Lincoln University, a black state run University. He was referred to as the " father of black history." These two men helped me understand just how racist the University of Missouri is.
As you know, during the Civil War Missouri was half slave, half free. You could still see the plantation housing in parts of Columbia.
Of course it wasn't just at the University. I was once in a truck stop where you couldn't help hearing a bunch of low class whites comparing African-Americans to apes. There was no law enforcement there to object to this horrible display of hate, and I suspect they wouldn't have done a thing.
In the end, it took much longer than I had hoped for the University to deal with this issue. Thank God the football coach felt he was like "a father" to his players and supported them wholeheartedly. Given the hatred in that state I hope the powers that be don't try to fire him. It will take years, or decades to change the mentality of that University. I only pray that fewer African-Americans will have to undergo the pain I saw when I was there.

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