The Slow Death of Colonel Reb

If this keeps up, I might have to quit hating on Ole Miss. I have to confess, I didn't know that the school had dumped Colonel Reb as an on-field mascot years ago (though they still sell tons of memorabilia with his image on it), so I was pleased to learn that. It's also important to recognize just how far this school has come in recent memory.

In 1997, the school ended the waving of Confederate flags at sporting events. Then Colonel Reb was booted off the field. Last year, the band stopped playing the fight song, "From Dixie with Love," to discourage the fan chant, "The South will rise again."
Make no mistake--those flags would be flying today if it weren't for the ban, and while the university has made some moves away from its more immediate and overtly racist traditions, racial tensions are still high, especially among alumni.
Alum Bob Dunlap, 80, who's in the tire business, said he has donated about $1 million to Ole Miss athletics over the years, but he'll likely stop if Colonel Reb is removed from the campus entirely. He said the vote is unnecessary.

"Everybody liked that little guy at those ball games," Dunlap said. "They just create a lot of bad feeling when they do these type of things."
Gee, I wonder who Dunlap is talking about when he uses the pronoun "they"?

On the plus side, the school is headed in the right direction, even if it's taken them a really long time to get going. The students who support the old mascot are fighting a losing battle (though their inevitable loss will only feed into the martyr complex that the lost cause so powerfully embodies in the old south) and in a few years, maybe Ole Miss will have a core of student leadership that questions the wisdom of having a team name that represents treason in defense of slavery at all. And some alumni and students will shout and mourn the loss of southern heritage and the rest of us will nod and perhaps even applaud a little and wonder what the hell took them so long.

I hope so, at least. But I feel pretty solid in my hopes. Race is becoming less and less an issue for younger people, even in places where racial tension has been an open wound for, well, forever. My students don't look at race the same way I did, or do for that matter. It's barely a blip on their radar screens, and I don't see why they would regress. Makes me feel good.

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