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Fair Or Not, Ole Miss Tied To Racism And The KKK Once Again

gfx - honest opinionDo a Google news search on Ole Miss this morning and you’ll soon find the school’s name attached once again to three ugly letters: KKK.  That’s because — as we told you yesterday afternoon — a top cornerback prospect from Alabama recently tweeted out the following message:

 

“Lemme get off Ole miss I’m sorry people y’all ain’t racist….y’all just have KKK marches every month.”

 

Asked if he’d been to Ole Miss, Marlon Humphrey — son of former Alabama and NFL star Bobby Humphrey — followed up with: “yes I went they had a KKK march and everybody decommitted.”

Now, the facts are these:

 

*  The player is the son of an Alabama player and many believe he’ll wind up in Tuscaloosa like his pop.

*  The last time an Oxford KKK rally got any mention in the media was way back in 2009 when anti-Klan protestors actually outnumbered the imbecilic racists in their bed sheets.

Humphrey eventually tweeted a major apology that appeared to be written by someone else: “This tweet is to the Ole Miss Coaching Staff and the Ole Miss family.  I have not been on your campus as a recruit.  I have not felt any Racism from anyone on your campus I am sorry for misleading anyone in thinking that there is any racism coming from the Ole Miss family.”

*  As noted in our story yesterday, Humphrey also offended another group when he tweeted some homophobic views.  (Apparently being prejudiced about skin color is bad while being prejudiced about sexual orientation is A-OK.  Got it, Marlon.  Thanks.)

 

So what do we know?

First, that Humphrey is yet another example of why coaches and parents should ban their kids from Twitter.  When it comes to tweeting teens, the potential negatives far, far outweigh the potential positives.

Second, we know that Humphrey was lying about the KKK rally and the wave of decommitments, etc.

Third, we know that the veracity of Humphrey’s tweets don’t really matter in the least.  Mississippi — the school and the state — has a nasty history when it comes to racism.  Regardless of any change or progress made in the past five decades, all it takes is a tweet from a teenager to tie the words “Ole Miss” and “KKK” back together again.

From Emmett Till to Governor Ross Barnett.  From Medgar Evers to the murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.  From the film “Mississippi Burning” in the 1980s to a 2009 Klan rally that drew more national headlines than actual Klansmen, the school and the state of Mississippi cannot escape their shared history.

Is that fair?  Not for everyone.  I suspect the majority of people in the Magnolia State and certainly those at the University of Mississippi have outgrown the racism of their parents and their parents’ parents.

I’ve been to Mississippi many times.  I drove the entire length of the state last year.  I’ll be back there in just a couple of weeks as a matter of fact.  As a visitor/tourist, I’ve never seen any type of racism with my own eyes.  (Though a pair of shirtless rednecks in Scooba did give me — a fellow Caucasian — a chilly “Where you from, boy” stare at a gas station last summer.)

But here’s the rub.  While it isn’t fair for all Mississippians and all Ole Miss students to be painted as racists with such a wide brush, it is fair for some.

Do you happen to remember why the KKK gathered for their tiny rally in Oxford four years ago?  It was because UM chancellor Dan Jones — after requesting and then ordering students to stop chanting the words, “The South will rise again,” at the end of the fight song “From Dixie with Love” — banned the playing of a favorite Rebel anthem at sporting events.

Jones sent out a letter at the time stating:

 

“We cannot even appear to support those outside our community who advocate a revival of segregation.  Consequently, I have asked the band not to play ‘From Dixie with Love’ at upcoming athletics events.  The absence of this song will send a clear message that the university is neither facilitating nor indirectly condoning the chant.”

 

So much for sending a clear message.  Not only did a few Klan members draw dozens of cameras to the UM campus over Jones banning of the song, but since then there’s been another fight over the school’s on-field mascot.  Ole Miss chose to put a guy in a Black Bear suit on its sidelines.  As silly as that is it disturbed a helluva lot of people who want the old “Colonel Reb” costume brought out of mothballs.  Colonel Reb, of course, is the ol’ Southern gentleman who conjures up images of a simpler time when whitey could peacefully sip his mint julep on the verandah while his darkeys entertained him with a work song from out in the fields.

Now who wouldn’t that image associated with their school in the 2010s?

Ole Miss coaches already face an uphill battle on the recruiting trail when it comes to luring black out-of-state prospects to Mississippi.  Throw in the nickname Rebels and the hill becomes even steeper.  Throw in all the rest and maybe you can figure out why Ole Miss’ football fortunes have dipped over the last 50 years.

In the 1980s, the UM administration pushed to get rid of Rebel flags at Ole Miss sporting events.  Then came the banning of “From Dixie with Love.”  Then came the black bear mascot.

Some Ole Miss fans claim that the school’s heritage is being taken away from them.

Good.  It’s a bad heritage.

That heritage includes so many ties to racism and segregation that I couldn’t come close to listing them all just a few paragraphs back.  Like it or not, fair or not, that is the history of Mississippi.  That history cannot — obviously — and should not be forgotten.  But it also should not be celebrated.  At least not those elements grounded in hate or the oppression of an entire race of people.

And at least not in ways that please the KKK while simultaneously offending black athletes.  (Ole Miss isn’t the only school that’s paid a price thanks to the Klan.)  Keep the Rebel nickname and recruit around it.  Fine.  But when it comes to the images and sounds that can be taken as racist, dump them.  All of them.  As quickly as possible.

Or else hold your tongues, Rebel fans, when recruits choose to go elsewhere.  Or when recruits — even if they’re lying — choose to use your past against you.

The Ole Miss administration has worked hard to try and create a new image for the current University of Mississippi.  It’s a shame not everyone has gotten on board with that plan.  Because they haven’t, UM’s old reputation remains alive and well on the recruiting trail.

 

(One sidenote — For those neo-Confederates who will inevitably claim I’m an anti-Southern blue belly, I’ll be in Vicksburg in a few weeks to remember Francis Marion Pennington and Robert Snead Pennington, a pair of Confederate brothers who surrendered there.  I’ll honor my ancestors.  I won’t be honoring their cause.

A second sidenote — Anyone else find it ironic that many of the people who want African-Americans to stop talking about slavery — because they “had nothing to do with it” — are the same folks who wear and fly the Confederate battle flag?  In other words, “You need to let go of your history, but I should be allowed to keep mine.”)

 


15 comments
StephenLooney
StephenLooney

Great point, John. We can all be proud of the South while recognizing our ancestors' wrongdoings and moving forward in a positive and peaceful fashion. Due to their history, Ole Miss has a great opportunity to be a leader in helping our country progress past, without forgetting, its sometimes ugly history. I wonder what African-American players think of the all grey uniforms that Ole Miss occasionally sports. 

Tusk
Tusk

I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that "the veracity of Humphrey’s tweets don’t really matter in the least."  History or reputation is no reason or justification for tweeting and spreading bold faced lies like these, which only perpetuates hatred and ugly stereotypes.  As a Tide fan who loved watching Marlon's father play, I wish MH the best of luck in his college career and a good learning experience.  Hopefully, not in Tuscaloosa.

pbrstreetgang
pbrstreetgang

I feel like I've this exact article in the New York Times.  Several times.

darthnatas
darthnatas

Was my original post a little too close to the truth for you to refute publicly?  You are the one who brought up the subject of  history and cited your view of it on a sports forum.

xmego9
xmego9

John, John, John, don't you understand that the symbols of the ante-bellum south that so many white southerners cherish are important because they are a way of honoring their ancestors, not the cause, just as you did at Vicksburg. Outside of a few old Kluxers I dare say that there are precious few in the South who would want to return to the system that was in place before the War Between the States, vestiges of which remained until recently. Southerners simply want to honor their ancestors who shed blood and gave their lives for a cause, right or wrong. There is nothing wrong with that but I do realize that it's all about appearances and perhaps some of the more "offensive" symbols need to be relegated to museums or historical exhibits.

I read and enjoy your blog daily

fdsettle
fdsettle

Dear Sir, This is my first post ever, and most likely my last.  I perceive that you may be be the pot that calls the kettle black.  Your article reeks with your personal views and in it's own way is racist. one sided and counter productive,as well as judgemental.   I believe the people of Mississippi are quite capable of making their own decisions concerning their schools, songs,  mascots and such.  I too drove through Mississippi just two weeks ago and found the people there very nice and proud of their state.  You assume way too much and your asumtions hurt and do not help.  The people of Mississippi are quite able to make their own decisions and fix their own problems.

I normally like your articles and thoughts but this one is way out of line........

PS....sorry I do not have spell check.

PROUD TO BE SEC !

MIZZOU


John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@Tusk 

I think you took that line the wrong way.  I wasn't saying it SHOULDN'T matter... I'm saying it doesn't matter.  It sure didn't matter in this case.  

Anytime someone points to "Ole Miss and racism" or "Ole Miss and the KKK" it's going to get more national attention than it would if any other school were involved.  That might not be fair, but the history of racism in the state and at the school -- from decades ago -- leads people to highlight any claims tying today's Ole Miss to racial issues.

The point of the article was to say that the best way to fend off such attacks is to get rid of as many of the old symbols associated with segregation and the Confederacy as possible.  The administration is doing that, but there's been blowback to each move made.  Those doing the blowing back need to be OK with the fact that their school will always fight an uphill battle in recruiting if they get their way.

This article was aimed at the minority -- though they are a loud minority -- that want to cling to the past rather than move toward the future.  Even though some of the past they cling to is offensive to a great many people.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@darthnatas 

I didn't see another post from you.  Sorry, but it's not on this site and it's not awaiting approval in our admin system.

Seeing your attitude though, I doubt anything you wrote was too close to the truth.

John

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@xmego9 

"There is nothing wrong with that but I do realize that it's all about appearances and perhaps some fo the more 'offensive' symbols need to be relegated to museums or historical exhibits."  Exactly.  

As I stated, I can honor my ancestors... I just do so without shouting "the South will rise again."  The vast majority of Ole Miss fans understand that and obviously the administration understands that.  The trouble is with the number of people who don't understand that and want Colonel Reb back and do want to yell "The South will rise again."  Those folks can't have it both ways.  

If some people want to hold on to those types of images and sounds, they're going to have to put up with people believing/suggesting that there's racism on that thar campus.  Even if it's made up -- and I certainly didn't ignore the fact that the young man in question lied -- any mention of Ole Miss and KKK or Ole Miss and racism will go national quickly.  If those folks who claim their heritage is being stripped away truly understand the disadvantage faced by their coaches because of said symbols and sounds, fine.

But they can't fight for Colonel Reb AND complain about people crying "racism."

The fact that the words Ole Miss and KKK were once again paired up on national websites because of something as simple as a teenage recruit lying on Twitter seemed to make it the perfect time for me to point out just what the school is up against in terms of national perception.  "Fair or not," that is Ole Miss' struggle.  So as I stated, the school should absolutely try its best to distance itself from as many of those symbols as possible.  The nickname should stay, but Rebel flags and costumed plantation owners need to be put in a closet.  At least if Ole Miss wants to have long-term success on the recruiting trail.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

muttlover
muttlover

@xmego9John, I love your site and you are by far the best source for SEC information. Keep up the good work!  But,  LSU's nickname comes from the Confederate army but you never hear of that?   Every SEC school has ties to the Confederacy/Civil Rights Era.  Ole Miss, more so than some, but all have ties to the Old South whether they like it or not.  My only question is, who defines what is a "more offensive symbol"?  Can or will the NCAA or SEC step in? I hope not......let the local folks decide that and deal with the consequences. 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@fdsettle 

It is fair to assume that you have never voiced an opinion on anything -- politics, films, music -- that did not directly impact you?  

This column provides advice for the majority -- as stated multiple times in the piece -- of Ole Miss backers who are tired of seeing their school listed next to the letters KKK.  To stop that, they need to dump as many ties to the old Confederacy as possible.  If they don't, they need to accept that this stuff will never end.

Now, for the record, a column is supposed to share personal views.  That's literally the definition of a column... especially one with a graphic that plainly states that this is the writer's "honest opinion."

But I'll close with this: The people of MrSEC are quite able to make their own decisions on what to write and how to write it.

Just being cheeky,

John

Oh, and thanks for reading.  

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@muttlover @xmego9 

Other schools have ties to the Confederacy, yes.  In fact, there's a link in the story to the fact that Patrick Ewing chose not to attend North Carolina because of a Klan rally during his official visit to that school. 

But when your school is located in a state which has arguably the worst reputation of racist behavior in the entire country, it's best to distance yourself from as much racist imagery as possible.  And while some might feel that Colonel Reb or a Confederate flag or a chant of "the South will rise again" has nothing to do with racism -- just heritage -- the fact is it's a very controversial line to walk.  Especially if you're trying to recruit an African-American athlete who might just happen to have a totally different view of those images and that chant.

You ask who decides what is offensive?  I think the UM administration -- as stated -- has done a pretty good job of determining what the more offensive symbols are and I've already mentioned them above.  And the administration has already dumped them.

This piece was simply aimed at the minority of people who still don't understand that a tiny Klan march or a fight over a mascot (that gets national coverage, by the way) can be exaggerated and exploited by rival recruiters or -- in this case -- an actual recruit.

There's a stereotype about the state of Mississippi and its flagship university.  That stereotype was formed decades ago.  It isn't fair to the state or to the school to ignore the progress that has been made, but those who bark about the loss of their heritage only feed the existing stereotype.  And that will continue to make recruiting a uphill climb for Ole Miss in the longterm. 

Many thanks for reading,
John

UtahReb
UtahReb

@John at MrSEC @fdsettle Truly amazing. Some punk Tweets lies, and you turn it into a platform to rant against the organization that the lies were targeting. The arrogance and self-righteousness of this site's editorial staff is becoming unbearable.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@UtahReb @John at MrSEC @fdsettle 

A rant?  Didn't realize it was rant.  It was written in a pretty matter-of-fact voice.

The point is rather simple -- this kind of stuff will always be out there when it comes to Ole Miss... but the less of the Colonel Reb, South will Rise Again nonsense, the easier it will be for the school to defend itself and say, "that's not who we are."  And I think I praised the administration at UM as well as the majority of students and the majority of Mississippians.

Hardly a rant from this side of the keyboard.

But while we're on the topic, there's not a thing arrogant or self-righteous about a person complaining in anonymity.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

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