According to Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, the recent protests on the Columbia campus of the University of Missouri were merely the bleatings of “pampered students” urged on by “tenured radicals” in the faculty ranks.
Had he been governor, as he aspires to be, he would have marched onto campus and confronted the rabble rousers, Kinder told a group at a campaign forum.
Yes, that would have gone well. You have a black student in the second week of a hunger strike, black football players refusing to participate in games or practices, hundreds of protesters gathered on the campus lawn, and here comes the white, career-politician governor to tell the spoiled brats to grow up and get back to class.
A brilliant idea, Mr. Governor in Waiting. Can you say, Ferguson?
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Two other candidates for Missouri governor, Catherine Hanaway and John Brunner, asserted at the forum that students were being led astray by liberal professors and political correctness gone wild.
They’re all wrong. Just like former University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe was wrong when he didn’t respond to pleas from students to listen to their grievances about racist incidents on campus.
The presidential candidates who vilify the Black Lives Matter movement as a collection of thugs and anarchists are also wrong. Very wrong.
These protests on city streets and college campuses are the voice of a rising generation giving notice that they are here to disrupt a status quo that tolerates discreet and overt racism. And they aren’t going away.
The protests at Mizzou didn’t arise because some entitled students got bored and decided to complain in public. They happened because students decided they wouldn’t put up with the sort of racist acts that black students at the University of Missouri have experienced for years.
Their grievances are real. Students have been harassed and intimidated on campus, and when they insisted on talking to the university system’s top officials, they received no response. So they turned to the protest techniques that have forced change over time and around the world. A hunger strike, boycotts, demonstrations.
And guess what? It worked. Wolfe and MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigned, and Mizzou’s future leadership is on notice that Missouri’s flagship university must foster a climate where students of all races are respected and included.
There’s no question that students hurt their cause by trying to ban the media from protests (Mizzou) and forums (Emporia State in Kansas); or preposterously insisting that reporters agree to explicitly support the students’ cause as a condition for admission to a demonstration (Smith College in Massachusetts).
The media has access to public spaces, people. Always. You want to meet in private, rent a meeting space or pull up chairs in somebody’s kitchen.
It’s also undoubtedly the case that some of today’s students are overly sensitive to perceived slights. But runaway political correctness in some corners doesn’t mean students at Mizzou and elsewhere don’t have credible grievances.
As for the black activist protests like the ones we’re seeing in Chicago and Minneapolis, they aren’t pretty or polite. They are in response to brutal acts by police officers against citizens of color. It happens too often. But the protests, serious and sustained, will eventually change policing in America.
Politicians should take care before denigrating campus protesters as “pampered students,” as Kinder did. Or suggesting it was OK to “rough up” a black demonstrator who disrupted a campaign event, as Donald Trump did.
These young people are all about change. And it surely will dawn on them that the most effective way to effect change is in the voting booth.