Heritage and Hate at Ole Miss

A follow-up note that gives us another example of the bottom-side of this country. Unfortunately, too many people are racing to the bottom. Please read the complete article by Janelle Bouie at The Daily Beast.

The University of Mississippi can honors [sic] its traditions without embracing the worst symbols of the Old South.

Last weekend, at the University of Mississippi, vandals defaced a statue of James Meredith—who stood against white mobs and the state government to desegregate the school in 1962. According to reports, two white men approached the statue in the early morning and placed a tight noose on its neck. They draped the statue with an early version of the Georgia state flag, which shows the “stars and bars” of the Confederacy.

The message, to the black students of Ole Miss, was straightforward: Go away. We don’t want you here. But 52 years after Meredith went on campus, non-whites are a quarter of µthe student body. They’re not going anywhere.

It should be said that, thanks to an immediate response from the university, local police have several suspects—three freshmen, all of them white males—and all are wanted for questioning. …

The point of Bouie’s article is that even if the sentiments are pure, an insistence on retaining traditions which might well be ugly and inflammatory can stain a valuable institution such as Ole Miss with a reputation it might not deserve. But remember, perception is reality and how many news stories in the local papers about how the college administration condemns such acts does it take to balance the Confederate memorial on the campus or the playing of Dixie at the football games?

What’s more, those symbols can encourage the view that the school is for whites, and whites alone. Put simply, if you’re going to honor the Confederacy on your campus, you shouldn’t be surprised when some students that seriously.

I get the reverence for tradition that defines a place like Ole Miss. It’s a fact of life at the flagship universities of the South, like my alma mater, the University of Virginia. But “tradition” isn’t an unalloyed good, and there are parts of our traditions that we should set aside. Ole Miss is a 21st century campus with the worst of our 19th century symbols. It’s time for a change.

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