His Hunger Strike Led To A School President's Resignation

Black Lives Matter March
Cydney Smith
March 19, 2020

The University of Missouri has a despicable record of racism. After participating in the Ferguson protests that stirred Black Lives Matter, one student leader would take what he learned there and organize a nationally-praised strike against Missouri’s University System.

That student was Jonathan Butler.

Disturbed by the administration’s lackluster response to on-campus racism, Butler went on a hunger strike in 2015 until the school’s president stepped down.

Butler shared with CNN, “I felt unsafe since the moment I stepped on this campus ... I had someone write the n-word on my wall. I’ve been, physically, in altercations with white [men] on campus.” And studies show how damaging racism can be to our education.

As one study details, “Weathering the cumulative effects of living in a society characterized by white dominance and privilege produces ... physical and mental wear-and-tear that contributes to a host of psychological and physical ailments.” For Black students attending predominantly white institutions, these ailments interfere with learning.

After his hunger strike gained nationwide attention - and amassed even more support - the school’s president resigned, a bright example of the change that can happen when we take drastic action. But, as Butler noted, this should have never happened.

Schools should not be war zones where we have to fight for our safety. Perhaps that’s why, even as enrollment declines nationally, more Black students are enrolling at HBCUs - because we deserve to learn in peace.

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