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Let the work we've done speak for us

 

One cannot question the notion that this Black History Month is one to remember for Ole Miss. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been more proud of the progress of our institution than ever before.

Without question, this place is far better off today than it was 50 years ago, and this month alone proved that. While this is not the only month, this month in particular we’ve seen significant progress in regard to every student’s experience. 

We saw our second black Miss University crowned on stage, and for the first time we have two African Americans, one of each gender, competing as candidates for the highest position in student government: president.

For far too long, we as an institution have been criticized and judged based on our racist past, a past that prohibited people of color, specifically blacks, from being admitted to the university.  

While we cannot erase our past, we can most certainly take the opportunity to address the challenges we as an institution have overcome. We can no longer allow our critics to perpetuate the idea of racism in an effort to reject our progress as an institution.

Not only that, we as African Americans can no longer allow our critics to characterize this place as unwelcoming for blacks. 

Today, I cannot speak for every black student, but I believe this place is more welcoming now for students of color than ever. 

I feel it is high time that we share a different side of history — a side of history that accurately articulates the progress we as an institution have made. 

I will be honest; my family feared what my chances of success might be at a place like Ole Miss when I decided to attend. Sadly, this story holds true for many other students of color. Their families’ minds are still drenched by the events that marked James Meredith’s entrance to the University of Mississippi.

I am now proud to say, my grandparents’ love for this place seemingly outweighs mine. 

My grandfather pays more attention to Ole Miss sports than he does my grades.

This university has presented me with numerous opportunities to succeed, from studying abroad to running for the highest position in the student government and now, leading one of the largest service events in our school’s history.

This institution has not only provided me with leadership opportunities but also with a challenging academic component that will allow me to compete with students from any institution in the nation. 

I believe any student can make it at Ole Miss if he or she tries.

I will not seek to paint my entire time here as glorious. There have been moments when I questioned this institution’s commitment to educating all students, and there have even been moments where I questioned whether or not some administrators cared about the black experience. 

But, I must admit, the good has outweighed the bad, and I am confident this institution is committed more than ever to ensuring all students have a successful experience at Ole Miss, white or black.

Much of this is due to the work of two outstanding leaders: former Chancellor Robert Khayat and Chancellor Dan Jones. 

While I am proud of the experiences this place has provided me, there’s much more work to be done. Still today, there are immediate concerns for students of color that need to be addressed, and I challenge the administrators and students to seek to address those needs. 

In an effort to make this place more inclusive for all students, of all walks of life, not just the traditional white/black binary, let’s take this Black History Month to reflect on where we were, where we are and where we are going. 

 

Cortez Moss is a senior public policy leadership major from Calhoun City. Follow him on Twitter at @Cortez_Moss.