Inaction is not an option in the face of racism

University of Missouri President Timothy M. Wolfe handed in his resignation Monday after football players and a graduate student rallied against his inadequate response to a string of racist incidents.

“This institution is a source of pride for the state and beacon of hope for many young people from all walks of life, and it has been my honor to lead it,” Wolfe said in a press release issued by the university. “This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I made my decision based on what I believe is right for the University of Missouri.”

Wolfe’s resignation is a clear indication that merely not being racist isn’t enough anymore. Our society will no longer accept a culture that turns a blind eye to hatred and injustice.

In the case of the University of Missouri, black students said they were subjected to verbal harassment on campus and also cited an incident where a swastika was painted with feces on a dorm wall. Graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike to protest the administration’s feeble response, according to the New York Times, and 30 members of the school’s Division I football team said they would refuse to practice or play until the president stepped down. The Times reported that missing a single game could cost the university over $1 million.

“I already feel like campus is an unlivable space,” Butler said in an interview with The Washington Post. “So it’s worth sacrificing something of this grave amount, because I’m already not wanted here. I’m already not treated like I’m a human.”

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Police Department came under fire for its failure to discipline nine officers, who were accused of trading racist and homophobic text messages, in a timely manner. The department discovered the text messages in 2012, but waited until earlier this year to begin proceedings against the officers involved, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Ian Furminger, the only officer named in the scandal, called the texts “dry humor,” that were “jokes among friends and nothing more,” in an interview with The Examiner.

We have realized that the culture of casual racism fostered by so many “harmless jokes” is the foundation of something much more sinister, in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and countless others. The stereotypes that this kind of banter reinforces drive a wedge into our society.

How can we expect minorities to live in a society that constantly reminds them of the horrific struggles they’ve been forced to endure in the pursuit of civil liberty? A student shouldn’t have to starve himself to bring attention to the harassment endured on a college campus. But here we are, still working to eradicate the racial decay, still working to bring racial justice to our nation.

If the bureaucrats that move the cogs of this nation won’t heed the pleas of a man willing to starve himself, then hit them where it hurts the most — their wallets. We need to take a lesson from the solidarity the University of Missouri students displayed. We need to take a stand against people in positions of power who close their eyes to racism.

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