Conversations about Jan. 6’s violent insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol have swept across the country and made their way to Columbia.

The Michael A. Middleton Center for Race, Citizenship and Justice hosted a virtual conversation series event, “Elections, Demonstrations and Insurrections,” on Wednesday evening to address the events of that day.

This was the Middleton Center’s first conversation series event. These events are designed to engage the MU campus and Columbia community in conversations about local, national and international topics, said Middleton Center co-Director Stephanie Shonekan.

Shonekan moderated the panel along with the Middleton Center’s other co-director, S. David Mitchell. They guided six panelists through a conversation about the recent events and how to approach them critically and thoughtfully from the perspective of race, citizenship and justice.

The six panelists were Ruby Bailey, Jay Dow, Stephen Graves, Julius Riles, Frank Bowman and Rabia Gregory.

Dow, an MU political science professor, spoke about the importance of civic education. He believes there has been a decline in this type of education education and that this has negatively impacted people’s ability to function as citizens in this country.

Dow said that civic education will be necessary to help people move past the immediacy of these events and solve underlying problems.

Stephen Graves, assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Black Studies at MU addressed the historical legacy of white anger within the United States. He said this anger must be internally discussed and recognized among the white American majority.

Gregory, an associate professor of religious studies at MU, spoke about the predominance of images of Christian worship evident in photos from Jan. 6. These images included a cross, flags referencing Jesus, symbols of Christian nationalism and anti-Semitic posters.

“The ways in which whiteness in America is linked to Protestant identity are critical to understanding what’s happened and what is happening,{/span}” she said.

Both Riles, assistant professor of communication at MU, and Bailey, executive editor of the Columbia Missourian, talked about the role of media coverage.

Riles addressed the need to interrogate and question the entrenched stereotypes and automatic associations presented by commercial media.

Bailey spoke about how the events of Jan. 6 tested journalists and media organizations on how to cover race and social justice.

During the question and answer portion of the event, several panelists discussed the role of professors in responding to and teaching about race, citizenship and justice.

Bowman, the Floyd R. Gibson Missouri endowed professor of law, also noted the need to hold political leadership accountable for continuing to cast doubt on the validity of the election.

  • Education reporter, fall 2020. I am a first year graduate student studying magazine writing journalism. Reach me at or on Twitter @GallantHannah.

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