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University exhibits Confederate sympathies

A students walks past a Confederate statute in the Circle.
Norman Seawright/The Daily Mississippian

 

One hot September Saturday in the Grove, people pounded the air to the tune of “From Dixie With Love,” in sympathy of the end of an era: the removal and replacement of Colonel Reb. 

It began in 1997 when the Confederate flag was barred from being flown around the football stadium so Tommy Tuberville could recruit a few top-notch black athletes. It continued onward to the banning of Colonel Reb from the sidelines in 2003 to eventual replacement on Ole Miss merchandise by a black bear in 2010. 

Chancellor Dan Jones, after giving several warnings for students to stop chanting “The South Will Rise Again” banned “From Dixie With Love,” a medley of the Confederate song “Dixie” and the Union song “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

All of this was in the name of ridding the university of its Confederate image and sympathies. While Auburn’s fans bellow “Power of Dixie!” and Florida State’s mascot, Chief Osceola, throws about his flaming spear, no other universities have had a history as dark as Ole Miss when it came to racism. Bullet holes can still be found in the Lyceum building from the riots when James Meredith set foot on campus in 1962.

Is the racism of the 1960s still found in this generation? The backlash to the replacement of Colonel Reb seems to suggest so, what with groups like Confederate Wave out there promising to bring back the memorabilia of the Old South. However, the majority of people who protested the replacement of the Colonel the most are the alumni, akin to the age range in the riot group hunting down Meredith decades ago. 

Are the students protesting the loss of Ole Miss traditions racist or ignorant? 

Thirteen years after Meredith walked around Ole Miss, flanked by a few of the 500 U.S. Marshals, Ben Williams became the first black football player and the first black Colonel Rebel in 1975. This was followed in 1989 with Kimsey O’Neal, star basketball player, as the first black Miss Ole Miss. Progress was made. 

In 1968, the Black Student Union formed as a lobbying organization for black students; it is now the largest minority organization at Ole Miss. Black fraternities and sororities (seven overall) chartered into the university’s Greek life. Nowadays black students can freely express pride for their heritage by events like stepping in front of the Student Union.  

Certainly it can be a good thing to be a proud black student, or one of any other ethnicity, at Ole Miss in the Deep South. 

“I have never encountered any personal discrimination here at Ole Miss,” said Maddie Fumi, new director of diversity affairs of the Associated Student Body. “I am Hispanic, and I am also from the North. If anything, I embrace my uniqueness because people tend to remember who I am easier.” 

International studies junior Shruti Jaishankar said multiethnic inclusion is not a problem at Ole Miss.

“I have never felt alienated (as an Indian student at Ole Miss.),” Jaishankar said. “I guess being an international studies major helps since the Croft program is already multiethnic and focused on the inclusion of other cultures. I don’t feel like it’s necessary to hang out with the Indian clique on campus in order to feel empathy or acceptance.” 

The Greek life at Ole Miss has been criticized in the past as being all-white, and those who wanted to rush into the predominately white organizations were accused of “acting white” by their peers. However, the naysayers were proven wrong when sororities and fraternities granted bids to black students, Indians, Asians and Hispanics in the past few years. Alternately, Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically black Greek fraternity, initiated Brooks Turner, a white man, into the fraternity this past fall. 

History was made this year when Kimbrely Dandridge was elected the first black female president to the Associated Student Body government.  She ran member fellow black and Delta Psi brother Kegan Coleman in this year’s election. Both were greatly supported by their Greek family and Ole Miss peers alike, and the election was in good sport. 

Such progress says that racism is dwindling at Ole Miss.

“There is a barrier between different races here,” political science freshman Jillian Steptoe said. “I don’t think that there is necessarily outright racism but instead a lack of understanding. We tend (to) only socialize with our own race and don’t really make efforts to step outside those boundaries. As an advancing society, we should try to set aside our misconception and bridge this gap.”

This statement rings true when a student sits at the Student Union and notices how the majority of the black students sit on one side and the whites sit on the other side, a voluntary de facto segregation of sorts.  

Yet, as Donna Ladd emphasized, “Reaction matters more than action.” If a student becomes ostracized on campus, the rebuttal by the Ole Miss students is swift and sure, as proven when the KKK protested the ban of “From Dixie With Love” in front of Fulton Chapel in November 2009. It wilted in 10 minutes with a gigantic backlash from the Ole Miss and LSU fans who told them they were not welcome. 

It was students, alumni and visitors alike at Ole Miss, a university with a bloodied history in racism, who shut down the Ku Klux Klan, a national white supremacist group. 

To this day, Meredith, a man who should have every right to be angry at Ole Miss for his mistreatment and near-murder experience, still wears red and blue slippers with Hotty Toddy emblazoned on them.  He is one of thousands of proud alumni who stand by the university and celebrate the Southern hospitality it brings. The Old South will never rise again, but a new South can rise in the united hands of its citizens who care for each other and their home. 

Racism may still exist, but it is outnumbered. As Ole Miss students have proven, this isn’t the 1960s when a black man had to rely on the military to walk to class.