(Before you read this interview, be sure to check out this clusterfuck of a timeline published at the ironically named “official independent student news source” of University of Missouri , and please note that two white females wrote it!)
Jonathon Butler was in pain, but he’s recently had a couple of Big Macs, so we’re all good now.
The 25-year old University of Missouri graduate student, who recently made headlines after he threatened university curators with a slow, ugly suicide or else, gave an interview shortly before he pwned the top brass at his school about just what motivated him and what he hoped to accomplish with his fast.
This Q&A has been edited for length and parody.
Tell us more about you personally. Where are you from, and what are you studying?
Butler: I’m 25 years old. I hail from Omaha, Nebraska, which you may not know is also called “The Big O.” I did my undergraduate in business administration with an emphasis in marketing at the University of Missouri. Now I’m pursuing my master’s degree in educational leadership and policy. I enjoy school, a good steak. You know, I enjoy life. But I really felt like I could lose a few pounds after putting on the Senior Sixty.
And how did you end up in activism? What happened that led you to find yourself one week into a hunger strike?
Butler: I really look to the example of my grandfather and my mother, especially my mother. I’ve always been kind of a mama’s boy. She did a lot of community engagement in the church. And my dad, he has a law background, and by law background, I mean that he is executive vice president for marketing and sales of a large railroad company.
But when you talk about most recently on campus, that really came from my experience organizing during Ferguson. Because the University of Missouri is only two hours away from Ferguson, and being able to have that experience, I had never seen that many black people. I’m from the south-side of Omaha, and it’s pretty white there. I’m actually whiter than Ben Carson in terms of life experience. I’m not quite as white as Barack Obama or Shaun King, tho.
So what are you fighting for through this hunger strike?
Butler: For me, I’m fighting for justice. It’s really plain and simple. And also, to lose a few pounds.
When you localize it to the hunger strike it really is about the environment that is on campus. We’ve had a lot of professors talking to us about abortion and Planned Parenthood during all that video stuff earlier this fall. Then somebody put a swastika made from human feces on the wall of a res hall, which I knew in New York City would be considered art, but I also knew that in Missouri, it could be the KKK. Also, somebody, probably J’mon Moore, called Payton Head the N-word on campus. Payton just did not know how to handle it, so he turned to Facebook. That went viral real quick.
And I had spent all last fall and half of winter in Ferguson protesting. After returning to campus, I learned they wanted to cut my graduate student healthcare, and I was like, DUH! Obamacare. I can’t afford that. So a bunch of us got together to talk about it, and we learned that the university was going to offer health insurance to foreign students, and we just thought that was whack. So we started organizing. And I had been to Ferguson, so I knew how.
It’s been a week since you ate. How are you feeling? Are you planning on stopping?
Butler: No one really understands what my body is going through. There really haven’t ever been any studies on what goes on in the body when you starve it. But I can tell you, my body is literally shutting down. There is just a lot that my body is going through right now. But I don’t really try to focus on that, I’m trying to focus on the fact that there are a lot of white allies that are coming on board. And also, we got the football team to support us.
Oh yeah? How did you do that? Was that expected?
Butler: I had no clue this was going to happen. I mean, I did give the cornerback my Micky Dees money because he asked nicely, but I didn’t think the whole team would support us or anything. But you know, they have a white quarterback. To quote The Last King of Scotland, “They’ll believe [him] because [he’s] white.” Also, a cool million dollars didn’t hurt the cause.
Do you see your activism as part of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Butler: It is, but it’s not. I mean, I’m a black man from an upper middle class family in Omaha, NE. And I protested in Ferguson for a semester, so really, it’s the same thing. And if you think about it, I’ve lost almost as much weight this week as a poor black man would weigh, so you could technically think of it as another black man put down by the power structure. So, it is part of the Black Lives Matter movement, but not necessarily in the cookie cutter way.
A lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t pay attention to this type of protest now are because of the solidarity you received from the football team. For those who are just tuning into this story, what do you want them to know?
Butler: The campus climate here at the University of Missouri is an ugly one. There’s a lot of pain and there’s a lot of hurt. We wanted to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters on other campuses who are feeling the pain and hurt because administrators and college presidents show resistance to total capitulation. Because that’s how we win. And getting people fired is better entertainment than Mizzou football anyway. We really need to dig deep and be real with ourselves about the world we live in. But we’re not going to do that. That’s why we decided to go to college in the first place. Because justice is worth starving for, especially if you’re thick like I was.