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Madness in Missouri

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Racial unrest on college campuses has spread from coast to coast in the past several days, but it began at the University of Missouri, where a graduate student went on a hunger strike to force the resignation of the college president. A group known as Concerned Student 1950, named for the year in which the first black student was admitted to the University of Missouri, demanded not only that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe step down but also that he acknowledge his "white privilege." Black football players piled on, saying they would refuse to play as long as Wolfe stayed.


Quickly, both the college president and chancellor submitted their resignations, handing the bullies a huge victory. Buoyed by the success at Missouri, students at Yale, Claremont McKenna, Vanderbilt, UCLA and some 20 other campuses took to the quads to express their own racial grievances and issue their demands. Who knows where this frenzy will end?

It is worth noting, however, that the evidence of rampant racism at Mizzou, which started the racial stampede, began with just a few anecdotal incidents. A student claimed that a group of whites in a pickup had yelled a racial slur as he walked near campus. Then word spread of the discovery of a swastika drawn with feces on the wall in a dorm bathroom. It was enough to send students scurrying to the barricades. But the more information that emerges about these incidents the more questions arise about whether the original allegations weren't much ado about -- if not nothing -- very little.

Missouri, known as the Show-Me State, hasn't lived up to its reputation lately, beginning with the false racial narrative of the Michael Brown killing in 2014. The Obama Justice Department found in a civil rights investigation into Brown's shooting that the "hands up, don't shoot" story was, as The Washington Post's liberal journalist Jonathan Capehart noted in March, "built on a lie." Forensic evidence and multiple witness accounts show that Brown, who had just stolen items from a nearby convenience store, was the aggressor. Even though unarmed, Brown tried to grab Officer Darren Wilson's gun, which discharged inside the police cruiser, and punched him before Wilson took off in a pursuit that ended with Brown's shooting as he charged back toward the officer.


Like the "hands up, don't shoot" story, the incidents that sparked charges of widespread racism at Missouri don't hold up under scrutiny. Payton Head, the young black activist who alleged he'd been called the N-word by an unidentified group of white men off campus, is the student president -- a position to which he was presumably elected by the majority-white student body on the very campus he claims is a hotbed of racism. Many are questioning Head's unsubstantiated allegation in the wake of his bogus claims tweeted earlier this week that the Ku Klux Klan was on campus and that he was "working with the MUPD, the state trooper and the National Guard." Head apologized for having falsely warned students to "stay away from the windows in residence halls" because KKK sightings had been "confirmed" on campus and saying he was working with law enforcement, but the incident raises questions about Head's overall credibility.

And the feces swastika, though totally disgusting, doesn't quite fit the racial narrative, either. If the point was to target black students, why draw a symbol most associated with anti-Semitism? To date, no suspect -- or any specific target -- has been identified.

As for Jonathan Butler -- the 25-year-old hunger striker who, with his fellow Concerned Student 1950 members, demanded that Wolfe acknowledge his "white privilege" -- he should know something about privilege firsthand. His father earned $8.4 million last year as an executive for Union Pacific, according to public Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Butler is hardly the poster child for disadvantaged minority students.


These protests might be chalked up as meaningless mau-mauing if they didn't actually threaten the institutions and individuals at which they're aimed. But the alacrity with which college administrators have been caving in to demands is truly dangerous. The newly appointed Missouri president, former college administrator Michael Middleton, has pledged to lead the "university towards satisfying each and every one of those demands that can be satisfied." Among those demands are 10 percent racial quotas for black college admissions and faculty hiring -- both of which are unconstitutional at a state university. It is no accident that Middleton was one of the founders of an earlier protest group at Missouri, the Legion of Black Collegians, whose 1969 demands Concerned Student 1950 has reissued and Middleton promises to satisfy.

This is madness -- and it promises to foster racism, not help end it. University administrators and trustees must learn to stand up to bullies who play the race card, not cave in to demands to fire university officials whose chief crime seems to be that they are white.

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