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.
Do 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.”)