#ConcernedStudent1950 and the Stolen Valor of the Civil Rights Movement

There is a term for a person who pretends to military honors they did not receive, either by wearing a uniform when they never served, or faking awards or commendations they did not receive: Stolen Valor. Stolen Valor is rightly considered one of the most deeply offensive things in America, and those who are found guilty of it are considered worthy of universal approbation. It takes a very low form of scum indeed to dishonor the courage and sacrifice of those who truly have served in the military by attempting to falsely claim the justified honor that goes with it.

The #ConcernedStudent1950 movement that is currently ongoing at the University of Missouri is guilty of stealing the valor of another group of brave warriors who have changed the face of America: the heroes of civil rights movement.

The brave civil rights heroes of the 50s, 60s, and 70s like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., E.D. Nixon, and Ralph Abernathy were brutally mistreated for the stands they took against the various incarnations of Jim Crow. They had firehoses turned on them, were the subject of vicious trained dog attacks, and were brutally beaten with clubs. They were repeatedly jailed in conditions that were specifically designed to break their spirits and their dignity. In many cases they were outright murdered and their bodies disposed of quietly.

These people who suffered this brutal mistreatment in the name of changing society are justly considered heroes. They stoically and peacefully endured cruel injustice in order that their inherent dignity might shine through and change the world, and they truly did change the world for the better in many respects.

Enter these ninnies who have taken over the University of Missouri, led by hunger striker Jonathan Butler. Butler was upset because the University cancelled his grad student health insurance and demolished some grad student housing. He also, according to his Facebook protest, was upset that Planned Parenthood’s hospital admitting privileges were revoked, which according to state law meant they could no longer perform medical abortions at the University of Missouri.

Not, you will notice, the same category of offense which inspired, say, the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Butler and his compadres were having difficulty getting national attention for their plight, so they claimed a number of high profile acts of racism had been committed against them or other students on campus in order to draw attention to their plight. It is not difficult to imagine Butler envisioning himself in the role of E.D. Nixon, and wanting the glory the civil rights leaders justly received for their plight and for the way they fought through mistreatment.

There’s only one problem; every major incident claimed by Butler has been exposed at this point as a hoax or has major questions – beginning with the swastika allegedly drawn in poop on a campus wall (even if the swastika was drawn, the idea that an actual neo-Nazi would have drawn a swastika in feces is somewhat farfetched, and it seems more likely that it was planted there by someone who wanted to make an issue out of it), and now including the claim that former University President Tim Wolfe struck Butler with his car during a protest. Even the claim by Butler that someone – he does not know who, or if they were affiliated with the University or even if they attended the University as a student – shouted a racial epithet at him from the cab of their truck as they drove by, should be viewed with suspicion, given Butler’s record for truth-telling thus far. Of course, even if it is true, it is not the sort of thing that would justify the current behavior of the Mizzou students.

The #ConcernedStudent1950 movement is clearly attempting to steal the valor of the civil rights movement, but there’s only one problem: they haven’t the foggiest idea of what that should look like. While the civil rights heroes marched bravely into situations in which they knew they would face brutal physical and psychological abuse, and bravely fought for the right to share facilities with their white counterparts, the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement is… well, running bravely away from the horror of being filmed by student media during their protests. They are also – how do I even describe this? – doing this:

Student protesters at the University of Missouri asked white supporters to leave Wednesday night in order to create a “black only healing space.”

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Prominent Black Lives Matter activist Johnetta Elzie seemingly confirmed those with Caucasian skin were asked to leave the area, tweeting that the group had created a “black only healing space for the students to share, decompress, be vulnerable & real.”

Hang on a second, my eyes just involuntarily rolled so hard that I’m pretty sure my ocular nerve is permanently damaged. I’m trying to imagine what would happen if we could teleport W.E.B. Dubois to the present time so that he could witness these alleged civil rights activists creating a “black only healing space” because they had been subjected to the indignity of a poop swastika none of them ever saw and also a student journalist with a digital camera wanting to film their protest so it could get more media attention.

The longer this farce continues, the more embarrassing it becomes for everyone involved. The most distressing aspect of it all is the complete lack of adults present, at any level of the university, who can say basic things like, “If you want your football scholarship, then get on the damn field and play,” or “if you are interested in receiving a degree, then go back to friggin’ class.” Nothing about the way this has been conducted – either by the students, faculty, or administration – would make any halfway responsible parent (black or white) more likely to send their kid to Missouri.

What’s happening here isn’t a civil rights movement, it’s a cry for attention that isn’t deserved.