(by Taylor Bishop & Taylor Vance, Ozarks News Journal)
A silent demonstration at Missouri State Universities Homecoming festivities has caused a loud response. The protest For Civil Rights made headlines after backlash and racial slurs were targeted at students protesting.
The negative feedback has sparked a conversation about cultural Competence not only at Missouri State but in Springfield as a whole.
Shannon Shellner is one the students who participated in the protest.
“The overall goal personally was to raise awareness on campus and just sort of get the word out about certain social issues that have been happening around America and just for several years towards African Americans in general.” said Shellner.
As the demonstrators remained silent, reactions did not.
“People were walking through our circle, people were calling us names, the n-word, telling us to go back to Ferguson and St. Louis, those types of things, to keep it in the hood.” said Shellner.
And it’s not just on campus that students have felt this discrimination.
“Everyone knows Springfield, we were nervous to come down here. Personally being a Black person and a woman at that, I mean walking on the street I’ve been called the n-word, told to go stand on a corner so it’s not like this is the first time.” said Shellner.
According to comments on a campus community social media page, Overheard At Missouri State, many students who were not involved in the protest thought Homecoming was the wrong place to bring up such issues. We tried contacting several people for interviews but no one agreed to comment.
“That’s what we wanted to happen, we wanted a reaction” said Shellner.
In the midst of the recent attention from the demonstration, Missouri State University’s Division Of Diversity And Inclusion just received a national award for Higher Education Excellence In Diversity.
Ken Coopwood is Missouri State University’s Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion.
“We won that this year and I think it’s very timely to have won this award giving the onset of the demonstrations because the demonstrations clearly let us know that we have not yet arrived. The award simply lets us know that we are on the right track for that arrival.” said Coopwood.
We recently attended the Speak Up event that was organized to talk about the protest where we learned that Civil Rights discussion has just begun.
“The most important thing is that we are all here right now and that we are aware of what’s happening and we’re talking about it and that’s step one.” said one student at the Speak Up event.
“Now we have a tremendous opportunity to deal with those initial responses for the benefit of our entire institution.” said Coopwood.