A great deal of the conversation that night was about meatballs. In a small den-like area on the ground level of the church, Turley had set out a spread of spaghetti and meatballs, salad and brownies. The campus ministry consisted of a handful of Mizzou students all but one of whom was white. After eating, everyone settled tightly together onto couches and chairs that lined the room to talk. Turley led the conversation by asking them how they felt. One student said that the events on campus had caused him to argue with a roommate. Another said that she was upset that her classes had been interrupted. All expressed some level of empathy for the protesters but more than anything they seemed confused.
Still, I’m afraid that I left the campus of the University of Missouri as much a stranger to its white community as I was when I arrived and without many answers for the whys of white folks. Those answers, it seemed, eluded even the people I met on campus. There was no grand revelation in their reflections on race, no clear path forward. What was clear and tangible to me, however, was just how badly schools like Mizzou failed at integration, if they ever tried at all. It’s likely that failure that has damned the student body to relive battles we long ago declared won.