The Oxford English Dictionary defines a platform as a plan of action; a scheme or strategy devised to achieve concrete results, which is strengthened by realizing sources of power. The recent events at the University of Missouri illustrate the importance of establishing and utilizing platforms and power — even when it compromises one’s privilege.
Privilege is multi-faceted. Many individuals, including Jonathan Butler, are privileged in some respects and marginalized in others. Butler is a Black graduate student at Mizzou. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree. But he was victimized by a series of racial incidents ignored by Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri system.
Butler works closely with Concerned Student 1950, an organization formed to fight back against racial hostility on Mizzou’s campus. On Nov. 2, Butler stopped eating. Due to Wolfe’s negligence, Butler compromised his health — forgoing the privilege of having a healthy, functional body — to serve as a basis on which people made a public appeal for the resignation of Wolfe.
Shortly after, word of Butler’s strike began spreading via social media and he began visiting groups on campus to rally support. One of those groups was the football team. On Nov. 7, 32 Black Mizzou football players made an announcement.
On Twitter, the players posted a picture stating that they would not participate in any football-related activities until Wolfe resigned or was removed. These men, because of their athletic ability, have the potential to play professionally and earn millions of dollars. They compromised their careers to stand behind Butler and protest against the racial climate on their campus. By the end of the next day, the rest of the team and their coach joined them.
On Nov. 9, a week after Butler stopped eating, Wolfe announced his resignation. Why are the protestors’ methods significant?
First, a quick privilege check. This list is not comprehensive, just a few instances both of my knowledge and relevant to my discussion. Again, I want to reiterate that individuals may be privileged in some respects and marginalized in others simultaneously.
Butler: health, education. Mizzou players: status as Division 1 athletes. Concerned Student 1950: education, articulation, right to assemble. Community: free speech, education.
Each of these people maximized a facet of their privilege to achieve results. They did so using the following platforms — Butler: body. Mizzou players: status. Concerned Students of 1950: protest. Community: social media.