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Mizzou Diversity Tweet Backfires, Enrages Black Community

The university's miserable attempt at showing institutional diversity further exposed its history of systemic racism.

Image Credit: Twitter Screen Shot

The University of Missouri is back to its racial shenanigans again. Even when the school attempts to feature Black people in a positive way, the systemic racism embedded in the school’s culture causes it to backfire.

Last week, the University of Missouri of Athletics Department attempted to celebrate, by way of tweets, the diverse backgrounds and talents of its student athletes.

Specifically, how they are “more than a student athlete.”

The intention was commendable, but the results of the now-deleted Tweet made them appear insensitive and clueless to how the caption could be perceived by people of color.

The tweet featured images of four Mizzou athletes sorted into boxes (two black and two white students)  with each one’s photo displayed behind a line of text that misses the mark so thoroughly it almost seems intentional.

Clueless is the best way to describe a university that would drop the ball so significantly, despite a history of racial protests and incidents that continue to stain its reputation as an inclusive institution.

In November 2015, members of the University of Missouri football team banded together to protest racial discrimination on campus.

The catalyst for the protest was a disgusting act of harassment that involved a student scrolling a swastika on the wall of a common area using human excrement. Another incident, among others, involved Missouri Students Association president Payton Head, an African-American, being pelted with chants of “n*gger, n*gger” during a speech.

Student activist Johnathan L. Butler went on a hunger strike when university officials proved inept at finding the perpetrators. He then went to the football team, asking for support. They responded as admirably and nobly as one could expect young college students to respond and their actions led to the resignation of the university system president.

Enrollment for the University plummeted in the following years.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Mizzou actually composed the diversity Tweet-gone-wrong as part of a larger #NCAAInclusion campaign, but again, they seriously missed the mark. They tried to clean it up with a replacement video, but it was too late.

The university immediately took an ass-whooping on Twitter.

Via riverfronttimes.com, “That’s because there seems to be a clear difference in the messages displayed between white and black student athletes. There was gymnast Chelsey Christensen — “I am a future doctor” — and swimmer/diver CJ Kovac — “I am a future corporate financier.” Opposite them were two black student athletes, whose texts did not include the word “future” or even mention their areas of study. Instead, runner Arielle Mack is shown stating only, “I am an African American woman.”

Similarly, Chad Jones-Hicks — who appears to not be a student athlete, but rather a “Ticket Office Assistant” according to Mizzou’s website — is shown stating only, “I value equality.”

Hours after posting the tweet, the Mizzou Athletics deleted it, and later posted an apology along with a video showing more athletes making their own “I am…” statements.

To its credit, Mizzou Athletics acknowledged that it had messed up.

“Earlier we made a mistake when we posted a graphic about our student athletes,” it tweeted. “We apologize. Our intent was to provide personal information about our students, but we failed. We listened and removed the post.”

Back in 2016, State Representative Courtney Allen Curtis offered some advice for black students who are thinking about enrolling at the University of Missouri: Think twice.

The Democrat from Berkeley, who himself attended Mizzou (but did not graduate), says he’d come to that conclusion after watching the university continuously drop the ball on  race relations — and then watched his fellow legislators fail to hold administrators accountable.

“At this time, I just don’t see how any minority can trust the University of Missouri,” he said in a statement. “I encourage any prospective student who believes in equality, a positive campus climate, and productive leadership to rethink enrolling at Mizzou.”

The recent Tweet shows that not much has changed because the culture is still not conducive for Black success.

 

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