Days after a racial slur was directed at students on campus, University of Missouri students papered a statue of Thomas Jefferson with post-it notes describing the former president as a "racist," "rapist," and more.
The protest is happening days after a drunk student hurled racist slurs at black students on campus. The incident occurred late on Sunday. In a video posted to YouTube on Monday, School Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin admitted that this is not an isolated incident.
"It's happened again," he said, adding, "hate and racism is alive and well at Mizzou."
In September, the president of the school's student association suffered a similar offense, and not for the first time. Protests have sprung up to fight campus racism:
The University of Missouri Student Coalition for Critical Action posted a statement explaining what's happening to its Facebook page:
For those of you here at mizzou there is and (sic) interactive action going on. Grab a Sticky-note Write about who Thomas Jefferson was and go post on him… take a pic ad put it on twitter with #postyourstateofmind#Cognitivedissonance
A video accompanies the statement, showing someone removing the post-it notes from the statue. We hear the woman shooting the video ask, "Why do you feel offended by us stating his actions in addition to his presidency?"
In a separate video, posted to Twitter, the scene continues. The woman says, "you feel that defacing him is offensive, we feel that it's offensive that you think it's okay that we should hide this part of history. So that's why we're adding to his statue."
Members of the Mizzou community have indeed been using the hashtag #PostYourStateofMind to share images of the post-it covered statue on social media:
— Kayla Burrell (@_kayyyb) October 7, 2015
The university's link to Jefferson is pronounced—professors can win a "Thomas Jefferson Award" for "ris[ing] above excellence and demonstrat[ing] clear distinction in teaching, research, writing, creative activities, and service to the University of Missouri and humankind." And for several years, Jefferson's tombstone could be found on the Mizzou campus.
Many of those using the hashtag are directing readers to a Change.org petition asking the school to remove the Jefferson statue from campus (at this writing, only 44 people have signed). The petition, which was posted to Change.org two months ago by Maxwell Little, points to the statue as an oppressive symbol. Little wrote:
The Thomas Jefferson statue that sits on the quad of the University of Missouri campus delivers a nonverbal code which affects me emotionally and psychologically.
Little argues that honoring Jefferson is akin to honoring a racist ideology:
[Jefferson] was a man that urged freedom for all and TALKED about the abolition of slavery, but never practiced democracy a day in his life…. This was a man that believed that both black and white individuals, equally free, could not live under the same government… This was a man that raped 16 year old Sally Hemings.
Little concludes that at the very least, ditching the statue would be seen as a sign of good will. "Removing Jefferson’s statue alone will not eliminate the racial problems we face in America today," he wrote, adding, "but it will help cure the emotional and psychological strain of history."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.