I must admit that I was not aware of what was happening at the University of Missouri in recent months. It either didn’t get much media attention, or I simply missed it. But it’s certainly getting attention now.
What strikes me the most about the resignations of Mizzou’s president and chancellor is the contrast between their departures. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin praised the student-led protest while President Tim Wolfe couched defiance and subtle criticism of the protest movement in a speech that touted love, faith, and mutual respect.
Most telling is Wolfe’s claim that “This is not—I repeat, not—the way change should come about. Change comes from listening, learning, caring, and conversation. We have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening, and quite intimidating each other.”
In an ideal world, Wolfe is absolutely right. Change should come through mutual respect and civil dialog. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world of imbalanced power. Wolfe was in a position of systemic power and did not exercise it for the common good. In response, students organized themselves and used grassroots power to draw attention to their situation and press for change.
Tim Wolfe is wrong. This is exactly how change happens.
Never in the history of the world have those with power enacted systemic change for the betterment of those without power. The United States was born of a violent revolution against colonialism. Yet woven into our national DNA is the original sin of racism. A bloody civil war 150 years ago and the struggle for civil rights 50 years ago have not cleansed us of this pernicious malignancy.
Calling upon the marginalized and oppressed to be patient and expect the system to correct itself is naive at best. In reality it is an insidious ploy to maintain the status quo.
Embodying the nonviolent defiance of empire exemplified in Jesus of Nazareth, the students of Mizzou have proclaimed the good news that a new world is emerging from within the world as it currently exists. Jesus calls this God’s kingdom. Here’s what it looked like in Columbia, Missouri yesterday: