Hitting the Ground in Mizzou—Raw Anger at Racist Terror and Profound Openness to Revolution and Greater Resistance

by Sunsara Taylor | November 10, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From the moment I stepped onto Mizzou campus together with a crew of other RevComs earlier today, one day after the president and chancellor resigned in the face of growing student protest against the pervasive racism on campus, the powerful mix of deep emotions was palpable.

We encountered deep anger. While the immediate round of struggle had jumped off in response to a racist verbal assault endured by the student body president and the administrations refusal to take this and other incidents seriously, the source of this anger was much deeper and widespread. Students spoke with ragged emotion about the racism they endure on campus in ways big and small, as well as the terror they felt directly in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown in St. Louis, just two hours away. “We were all thinking, it could have been any of us,” a Black graduate student said.

Several recounted an incident a few years ago where white students had spread cotton balls all over the lawn in front of the Black Culture Center because they thought it would be funny to see Black faculty and students forced to “pick cotton” in order to clean it up. As if that is not bad enough, two students who were caught participating in this act of grotesque racism were allowed to plead guilty to littering. This not only enormously trivialized the wrong that had been committed, but also portrayed the victims of it as the grass or the pavement rather than every Black person on campus and far beyond.

An Asian student described how he had only recently transferred to this school from another college in LA, but during his first week on campus he’d been yelled at and called a “chink.” “Its not the first time I have been called this,” he made clear, “But here, when I told people about it they all kind of shrugged, like this is just what we should get used to.” He said that last part—the way everyone else seemed to just accept the open racism—was the hardest for him to take.

We also encountered tremendous joy. As we strode across campus, and even before we reached the encampment where students had been sleeping for a week, we heard a crowd erupt in cheers. A speak-out was underway of graduate students who had formed up to protest cuts to their benefits but who had quickly taken on an active role in the struggle to oust the university’s president. A couple hundred students sat rapt as their peers got up and shared what they had learned, how they had changed, and expressed their determination to go forward. Later, a wide smile spread over the face of a Black woman in the encampment when she described how this whole experience had changed her, “I was always someone in the background, but now I am right out front just saying what I think is right.” Another Black woman described the hostile environment most of her classes are and how, for the first time she found the courage to raise this to a professor and how the big changes going on had created an atmosphere where she really felt heard. “See, even though they cancelled class, a lot of people learned a lot because of what you did,” her friend explained proudly.

This joy was mixed with pride and, sometimes, amazement. Over and over students would insist that it be noted how the struggle on this campus was anchored by Black students, including Black women and LGBT students. Often, these same students would go on to insist that it be noted how extremely broad the support that had grown up was—there were white students and the entire football team and faculty and parents. None of them had expected all of this when they began and they were so proud of what they and their peers had accomplished.

Profound Openness and Deep Questions

While the speakers I heard at the rally and many of the students I spoke to initially framed their remarks in very local terms, as in “improving their campus,” there is a tremendous amount of churning and a profound openness and eagerness to get into the very big questions. Dozens of students thanked us as we handed out hundreds of copies of Carl Dix’s new statement  offering support and thoughts on what this struggle needs to link up with and become part of. After the rally and march of graduate students, I spoke up and congratulated the students on what they had accomplished and let them know I had traveled with others down from NYC that morning. Before I could get any further, students burst into applause. They stayed as I drew links between the racist outrages on their campus and campuses nationwide and the system that has unleashed its cops in the streets to terrorize and murder Black and Brown people. I got into the need to get rid of this system through revolution and for students to get into the leadership for this revolution by getting into Bob Avakian and Revolution newspaper (revcom.us). At the end, there was more applause. Knots of students stuck around to get the newspaper, talk with us, and share their own thinking and questions.

Carl Dix caught up with us after finishing up a couple of interviews and we introduced him and directed students to go talk with him and learn from him in particular. A crew of students did.

A Black male graduate student pointed out to me that revolutions are always bloody. He didn’t raise this to argue against revolution, but more—it seemed—to find out if we were just throwing the word around or really understood what it meant. We got into the need for the entire system of capitalism-imperialism to be swept aside and for its military and courts and police forces to be dismantled and defeated for a new society and world to be brought into being. We got into the fact that non-violence is a myth, every day this system carries out unfathomable levels of destruction, terroristic and oppressive violence and it will not stop doing so unless and until it is overthrown and abolished forever. He nodded and laughed in recognition of the daily violence and expressed interest in learning about genuine communism.

Later, when I was just standing, a student approached to ask for a copy of what I was clearly holding a stack of. I gave him Carl Dix’s statement and he began grilling me with questions. What did I think the protests had accomplished? Why would communists come down all the way from New York City and other places to be here? What did we think should happen next? Why would white people feel so strongly about this issue and how do I navigate when and how to speak out, given that I am white? He opened up about racist hate that has been shouted at him and admitted that he’s begun thinking about politics and social change in ways he was never inclined to before. “Are you really communists? Like, all-in, all the way communists?” When I told him, “Yes, absolutely,” and got a bit into what that means he responded, “I am going to give you my phone number but I want to be clear, it's not because I am a communist or am now convinced of everything you have said—I just want to learn more. I am open to it.” We read out loud the “Invitation”  from Bob Avakian and then walked through the approach that he takes and the responsibility the student has to follow through on his own concerns and convictions in the ways described. He appreciated this approach and then lit up, right before running off to class, when we told him that the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has published a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). He seemed surprised just how intrigued he’d become to learn more about real communism through the course of our conversation, coming on top of weeks of intensifying political struggle.

There is so much more I’d like to share. Reactions to the Stolen Lives poster about people murdered by police and the ways we are fighting to win people to take up the need to mobilize people on the anniversary of the murder by police of Tamir Rice on November 22. Some of the history of the land beneath Mizzou campus and the indigenous tribes that once lived there. The threats that student protesters have received—death threats, rape threats, are disturbingly credible. Reactions to the quote from BA on the potential for unprecedented beauty to rise out of unspeakable ugliness  focusing up on the oppression and liberatory role of Black people. Questions of identity and nationalism versus scientific communism and internationalism. And more. But it is late and this will have to wait.



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