On Saturday, former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, weighing in on the University of Missouri (“Mizzou”) brouhaha that led to the resignation of university president Tim Wolfe, wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that the events were “absolutely awesome” for civil rights.
Brown called the protests a “student uprising” over racial insensitivity. He ignored the fact that three of the four incidents the students used as fodder for their actions were based on flimsy claims, including the “poop swastika” that police reports said was likely directed against Jews rather than blacks.
Likewise, Brown ignored the withdrawn accusation by the black Mizzou student government president, Payton Head, that the KKK had been sighted on campus, which was found to be false. Another claim, that a student was hit by Wolfe’s car, was seen to be a ridiculous assertion, as seen here; a student who appeared to be notorious hunger striker Jonathan Butler actually leaped in front of the car.
The one claim of racism cited by protesters with solid evidence resulted in the university moving the offending student off campus pending an investigation.
Despite all the evidence above, Brown called the protests at Mizzou “one of the most significant chapters in the civil rights movement since Selma and the Voting Rights Act.” Brown, apparently joining in the fight against free speech launched at universities (see UMass Amherst), argued that the protests’ significance derived from their attacks on “speech and perceived attitudes rather than outright discrimination.” He did not discuss the illegal and unconstitutional exclusion of journalists from the Missouri protest site.
Brown lauded the protests, calling them “entirely peaceful and respectful,” and adding, “There were no arrests. No window breaking.”
Brown expressed the most delight about the fact that the protests were led by black football players at Mizzou, writing, “Finally, and perhaps most important, for the first time black athletes as a group became the lead agents of change, when the football team threatened to go on strike.” He envisions professional black athletes taking the baton from the Mizzou football players and speaking out about political causes.
Brown has played the race card before; in 1995, the Los Angeles Times reported that Brown, then-California Assembly Speaker, pointed at a group of reporters, most of whom were white, and bewailed, “Everybody in here has been the beneficiary of preferential treatment at my expense–at every level in your life, at every level in your life.”
At the time, Brown was slamming critics of affirmative action, arguing that the United States had a decades-old “artificial system of selection” that favored whites.