To Whom It May Concern:
The University of Missouri has held itself true to four central values. Respect, Discovery, Excellence and Responsibility can be seen heavily displayed around our university's campus. From hanging on our iconic columns, to being the names of four of our residence halls, Mizzou markets these ideals and states that they will "pledge ourselves to act, in the totality of our life together, in accord with these values."
It is with great disappointment, however, that I am writing this statement to express how these ideals were, once again, not reflected due to the actions of my fellow students.
On Friday, November 6th, 2015 at approximately 11:15pm, Amber Letbetter, a current United Ambassador and 2015 Legion of Black Collegians Homecoming Royalty Court Member, and I were walking to the Mizzou Rec Center for the LBC Freshman Action Team's annual dodgeball event. After attempting to enter through the main entrance and seeing that it was locked, we decided to take the walking trail located inbetween the Rec Center and the HawLeWood Residence Hall area in order to enter through the entrance closest to the sand volleyball courts.
As we were walking, we see four young Caucasian men, who looked as if they could be freshmen or sophomores, also walking along the trail and approaching us. They were all wearing white buttondown dress shirts and neckties. Amber and I quickly noticed that they were intoxicated, as one of them was being held up by two of his friends. The fourth one was wearing a backwards baseball cap and was walking behind the other three.
As we began to grow closer in proximity to the group of young men, I noticed the most heavily intoxicated of the four was recording a Snapchat video. Seeing us walk by, he takes a look at both Amber and I. Then, he proceeded to look back towards his phone camera and said loudly "You're a nigger."
There was a silence among all six of us, as Amber and I stopped walking out of shock that the young man would boldly make such a statement. The young man that was walking behind them quickly slapped his friend's shoulder and said "Hey, you can't SAY that." Then turned to me (at this point, we were right in front of each other), said "He wasn't talking to you guys." and the entire group proceeded to walk off.
Amber and I stood there for a few moments afterward, in anger and disbelief that something like this could happen, especially in light of the protesting currently occurring on our campus. After discussing what to do next, Amber contacted MUPD, who told her they would patrol the area in search of the suspects and would contact her for further information. After settling down after the emotion of the situation, I made a follow up call with MUPD and was told the same information.
To be a student at an "elite" university and be disrespected in such a way is disappointing. To know that just a month ago, a similar event occurred in which the LBC Homecoming Royalty Court, of which I was selected as Royalty Duchess, were also called "niggers" is disheartening. And to have this event occur in the midst of the protesting and action being taken by #ConcernedStudent1950 , yet we are still questioned as to why we continue to fight against administration is absolutely insane.
What hurts me the most, however, is that no matter how much I fight to make this university better by involving myself in organizations, taking on leadership positions, and aspiring to becoming one of Mizzou's notable alumni, the fact that the university I love does not love me back is constantly thrown in my face. My experience is far too similar to the experiences of many other AfricanAmerican students on this campus. Yet, Mizzou continues to overshadow these issues with well written PR statements, campus wide movements and initiatives that never tackle the issue head on, and endless emails that acknowledge our struggles but never give action to them. We walk around this campus knowing that on any given day, there will be another racial issue. We go to classes with our white peers knowing that not only will they never understand our struggles, but many of them will refuse to try. We go to a university where the only place many of us feel comfortable is in a Black Studies class. This is unacceptable, and the university has made very little progress towards changing the racial climate here.
I don't have all the answers as to how to create a bigger change here. I'm not certain as to what plan can be followed to ensure that these incidents never happen again. What I do know, is that ALL of Mizzou, from students, to staff and faculty, to administration, needs to understand that the AfricanAmerican population is important to this campus, and just as worthy of feeling comfortable here as anyone else. I, and the rest of my fellow black students, refuse to allow the ignorance on this campus to discourage me from receiving the education I need and deserve. We have earned our spot here, and the university needs to recognize that ALL of its students need to feel included and safe. We aren't going anywhere.
Respectfully, Alexis G. Ditaway
P.S. To the young man who so proudly informed me that I am a Nigger. I want you to know that that term is something that stems from my ancestor's past. In this present time, there are so many other labels you could have referenced me with, such as member of the National Association of Black Journalists, Programming Coordinator for your Mizzou Residence Hall Association, Student Success Center Ambassador, or, quite simply, my actual name. However, if knowing all of this still doesn't keep you from allowing the term "nigger" to escape your mouth, I'm more than willing to meet with you in person during my office hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to discuss why you feel the way that you do. Perhaps me showing you some Respect and taking the Responsibility to show you black Excellence, will lead you on a Discovery of becoming a better person.