If I were a German immigrant, I think I’d fly a Nazi swastika in front of my house. And when I was confronted by angry neighbors — about 20 seconds after hanging said flag — I’d simply say, “It’s heritage, not hate.” You see, as someone from Germany, I could simply say that I was honoring my German ancestors, not what great grandpappy’s flag had come to represent.
But I don’t think I’d be able to pull that one off. At all. Do you?
(For those who don’t get hyperbole when it comes to point-making, no, I’m not serious about flying a swastika.)
Yet every year that “heritage not hate” message gets tossed around by folks who choose to fly the Confederate battle flag. (The actual Confederate flag was a different piece of cloth altogether, by the way.)
“We’re not trying to offend anyone and we’re not pro-slavery, we just want to hold on to our traditions,” is the usual argument.
Of course, if these folks had been born with a different skin tone and a different family history, they might not be so pro-flag, pro-Dixie, or pro-Colonel Reb.
That’s right, this is about Colonel Reb. It seems a group of Ole Miss students and alumni are kicking off a full week of events today aimed at bringing back the old Colonel Reb mascot to the University of Mississippi — ’cause in a world filled with war, sickness, poverty and heartache, nothin’s more important than standin’ up for a man in a stuffed suit.
“We made it for the students,” said Kellie Norton, a junior at Ole Miss and the student leader for the Colonel Reb Foundation. “They absolutely love Colonel Reb, but they never had an opportunity to hang out with him or see him.”
They absolutely love him? He’s been retired from the Ole Miss sidelines for nearly a decade. The only students who might remember him are a few eighth year seniors at Delta House named Otter, D-Day and Bluto.
Come to think of it, this whole thing smacks of dumb college kids being dumb college kids. Hey, I can say that, I was a dumb college kid.
If the administration takes something away — no matter what it is — you fight to take it back. If there’s a reason to gather ’round and play beer pong — say a pro-Colonel Reb rally — you embrace it.
Unfortunately, this silly push to bring back the old Southern gentleman only fosters the idea that racism is alive and well on the Ole Miss campus. And that, of course, is the reason Dixie was nixed and the rebel flag was banned from UM games in the first place. Colonel Reb — a Southern plantation owner — was viewed by some as a racist symbol of a racist age. So the school did away with him, too. Way back in 2003.
Unfortunately, every time the University of Mississippi tries to take a step into the 21st century, someone stands up demands a step back to the 19th.
Remember that handful of KKK’ers who spewed their nonsense on the Oxford campus two years ago? That small group made awfully big headlines… mainly because no other campus in America has any KKK’ers marching around pushing for Dixie to be sung at ballgames.
Last week, Norton suggested on Mississippi radio that the “name Ole Miss” will eventually be shelved. Ole Miss alum Brian Ferguson — also of the Colonel Reb Foundation — suggested the nickname “Rebels” will eventually go, too. Colonel Reb is just another step in the PC-ification of Mississippi, in their view.
Well, we’re not buying what those two are selling. Ask Southern Cal and Pitt how easy it’s been for them to get folks to refer to them as Southern California and Pittsburgh. The name “Ole Miss” isn’t going anywhere. Neither is the nickname “Rebels.” After all, I haven’t heard anyone pushing UNLV to dump their moniker.
Loving one’s school is fine and dandy and traditions are what makes the SEC great. But when a majority of people feel that a tradition is offensive and that it serves as a negative mark upon your school, that’s when it’s time to change the tradition.
And a decade after that change is made, it’s probably time for people to go ahead and accept it.
Rebels. Ole Miss. Those are traditions.
But a guy in a fuzzy mascot suit? Sorry, I’d feel silly putting up too much of a fight for what amounts to a big stuffed animal.