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Mississippi legislator’s bill to reinstate Ole Miss mascot, state flag is an embarrassing waste of resources

In response to House Bill 333, a bill authored by Rep. Steve Hopkins, R-Southaven, seeking to give University of Mississippi alumni the power to make decisions affecting the university (specifically as means of reinstating Colonel Reb, reversing the administration’s 2009 decision to scrap “From Dixie with Love,” and undoing the student body’s 2015 decision not to fly the state flag on campus):

 

Rep. Hopkins:

Aside from the fact this bill’s very existence and inevitable failure are a disgusting waste of resources during this year’s legislative session, it also reveals a hilariously misguided view of your role as a University of Mississippi alumnus. So from one alum to another, I’d like to offer some much-needed insight on why this tired, pointless discussion needs to die once and for all.

If you think it’s a coincidence that the removal of racist symbolism over the last 14 years collided with a time of unprecedented academic, athletic and financial success at the university, you should probably pay closer attention to the school you’re so eager to control.

Let me be very clear about this: Whether these symbols should represent an institution of higher learning in Mississippi is not a matter of opinion, nor is it a discussion that exists in a Civil War history class or the conveniently nebulous confines of things like tradition and heritage. Confederate symbolism did not die with the Confederacy. It was fully resurrected during the civil rights era as branded Southern resistance against the idea that black citizens deserved to be treated like people.

It doesn’t matter that Colonel Reb might remind you of warm childhood memories on campus. It doesn’t matter that you don’t feel uncomfortable seeing the state flag or hearing Dixie after a touchdown on game day. Perception is reality. And anything even remotely tied to the concept of white supremacy has no place anywhere on the planet, especially in Mississippi. Especially at a university where only 55 years ago a deadly riot seemed like a reasonable reaction to the idea of a black man getting the same education as a white one.

What you and others still fail to grasp about the removal of those symbols is it had nothing to do with compromising the cultural brand of the university just to alienate an entire group of people who disagreed. If you could step outside of yourself for 10 seconds and consider what those symbols and songs represent to people whose ancestors were enslaved by them, literally and figuratively, maybe you’d understand there was never a fight to erase history. It was simply about understanding which parts of Mississippi’s history should be contextually reserved for books and museums—not woven into the state banner or paraded around on a football field.

Those decisions were made because it was the right thing to do, and more importantly because the university doesn’t belong to you or any one person or group. It belongs to a diverse, dynamic community of students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni, the majority of whom are invested in the university’s mission and have long understood the school’s future hinges upon the ability to detach itself from the ugliness of its past.

At the end of the day, I imagine there are more pressing things to tackle during this year’s legislative session than where the state flag flies or which cartoon character should be the school mascot. As a fellow Mississippian, I encourage you to serve the people you represent by focusing your attention on the needs of your district. And as a fellow UM alum, I encourage you to serve our alma mater by resisting the urge to embarrass it any further.