The argument concerning the peaceful protest of racial “institutional” discrimination has come to the Show-Me state.
The College of the Ozarks is a 110-year-old conservative Christian college based in Point Lookout, Missouri, about 40 miles south of Springfield. They are also the new epicenter of the arguments concerning student-athletes taking a knee in protest during the national anthem.
Courses at the College of the Ozarks are “Christ-based” and “taught from the perspective of a biblical worldview, which provides a broad and robust understanding of the world that a secular worldview cannot provide.”
In recent days, the college has announced that they will be doing two things. First, the college is requiring all freshmen students to enroll in a course titled “Patriotic Education and Fitness class, which covers military customs, American flag protocol, map reading and marksmanship, among other subjects, its president told Fox News.” It is the precursor to their ROTC program. Students do not have to stay in the college’s ROTC program after the first course is completed.
I went to a college that offered ROTC training for those students who wished to join voluntarily, so I am not knocking the idea of an ROTC program. Unfortunately, I attended college at during the final years of the Viet Nam War and military service was not in vogue, yet some of my fellow students had wonderful careers in the United States military and armed forces abroad.
Second, the college is, or should I say was home to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II national basketball tournament for 18-years. Taking their cue from President Trump, the college’s board has decided it will not play or host teams that refuse to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. This coincides with their newly required patriotism training.
The president of the college, Jerry C. Davis, said in a press release that he invited the NAIA to discuss requiring that all student-athletes and coaches must stand during the Pledge, but, according to KY3.com, the NAIA refused the offer. Because of this, the College of the Ozarks elected to no longer host the NAIA Division II national basketball tournament.
In the press release, President Davis said that the college offered to host an open forum concerning the issue, but the “Council of Presidents [of the NAIA] refused” either to host such a forum or discuss the issue. The statement continued, “the College felt that its concerns were not taken seriously by the committee and requested that the tournament be moved.”
I understand how the college does not understand the issue related to the kneeling or arm locking during the national anthem. The school’s student body is more than 92 percent white and the faculty is over 99 percent white. There is little opportunity to interact with other racial groups.
As I have written previously, the military and athletics have been connected in the professional and collegiate arenas for decades. Yet the understanding of why these protests continue seems to have been lost in the fracas.
The reason is not protesting the U.S. military, the national anthem or patriotism toward the United States. It has to do with the continued institutional discrimination of people of color. And these peaceful protests are, in the minds of many, very patriotic.
In a 2018 poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the vast majority of Blacks believe they incur discrimination from institutions and individuals on a regular basis.
The poll defines “Institutional Discrimination” as, “forms of discrimination based on laws, policies, institutions, and the related behavior of individuals who work in or control those laws, policies, or institutions.”
The poll showed that Black Americans “rate local employment opportunities, the quality of local public schools, and the availability of public transportation as “worse” in their area than in other places to live.”
Though institutional discrimination was stated about 25 percent of the time, it is the most visible form of discrimination. Without having a diverse student body, schools like the College of the Ozarks do not and cannot understand what is institutional discrimination. They have, by virtue of the makeup of their student and faculty bodies, insulated themselves from the today’s verbal foray.
By not truly understanding the reasons for these peaceful protests of kneeling of interlocking arms during the national anthem, colleges like the College of the Ozarks possibly closed their eyes towards race relations in the United States.