It's Not About Melissa Click, It Never Was

Columns in front of University of Missouri building in Columbia, Missouri, USA
Columns in front of University of Missouri building in Columbia, Missouri, USA

On Monday, November 9, 2015, I was glued to my television screen as I watched my alma mater become a breaking news story. Jonathan Butler was eight days into his hunger strike, Tim Wolfe, the UM System president, was refusing to step down out of his own selfishness and social media was filled with hate.

Late that morning, Tim Wolfe resigned and the university erupted. I had never been so proud of my alma mater, of my people. To see them fight for something so fearlessly and demand respect still leaves me in awe.

Celebrations don't last forever though. I felt as if on this particular day it lasted mere seconds compared to the conversation that surrounds Melissa Click today, even in her dismissal from the university.

What felt like a victory for the black community at Mizzou, and all over the country was quickly taken away. When Click was caught on camera asking for "muscle" to remove a student journalist from taking pictures as Concerned Student 1950 and their supporters celebrated, everything that had happened shifted to her.

But it really wasn't about her and never should have been.

I understand and agree that what Click did was wrong. I understand that it's extremely awkward and hypocritical that she's a journalism and communication professor who seemingly ignored journalists' first amendment rights. But what I don't understand is why most of the conversation about Mizzou, four months after last semester's events, have centered around her and not much else.

The fight for equality and justice on the Mizzou campus didn't magically end when Tim Wolfe resigned, or when Interim UM system president Mike Middleton, a black man, was hired. It's going to take a lot more effort than that. That's why Concerned Student 1950 has a list of demands, it's why they still protest. But no one is talking about that.

It's ridiculous that 99 lawmakers can sign a petition in hopes of removing Melissa Click, but make no mention of the racist acts happening all across the state. It's disgusting that people had conversations about whether a faculty member deserved to be publicly fired and humiliated, but were (and still are) silent during protests on Mizzou's campus, which started happening way before last semester. I'm disappointed that after an incredible act of bravery from students last semester, all that anyone cares about now is about Click losing her job or how "embarrassing" it is to be affiliated with Mizzou.

Why are we not more interested in the next steps for Mizzou? I want to know who is going to fill interim positions and what administration is going to do to make sure it doesn't get this bad again. I want to know if black students on campus feel safer, if the threats on Yik Yak have stopped.

I get it, it's easier to focus on Click. Black students were able to create change last semester. So now Missouri legislature and alumni alike are out for blood and since it's frowned upon to go after students, they went after Click. I'm not saying her actions are dismissible, they aren't, but the complete lack of attention on what's next as it relates to race relations on campus seems odd.

Black lives matter and our voices weren't being heard, that's what caused this, that's what the protests were about. If people believe that firing one faculty member will make the drama go away, they're wrong. Students on the Mizzou campus have already shown the world that they aren't backing down and that they'll fight for what's right no matter what.

Now that Click has been let go, let's shift the conversation to the real issues instead of continuing to go after a professor with pitchforks in the form of sour and hateful comments. That's not constructive and it isn't furthering the conversation of diversity and inclusion on the MU campus. That is the conversation that MU desperately needs to be having.

I've got so much love for Mizzou, despite everything that has transpired over the last few months, which is why I want the university to do better. I understand these things take time, I don't expect racism to disappear from campus over night, but not talking about it, putting much of the focus of the last few months on one person, that's not going to get us any closer to justice and equality than we were before.

So Click is gone, but what's next? Your move, Mizzou.