Who the Hell Are We?
The Hotty Toddy cheer asks an important question (if you cut it off just right).
Who the hell are we as the University of Mississippi community?
UM is many things. Fundamentally, it is an arena for education, a place to learn and discover. That educational mission depends on honest reckonings. UM holds the academic work of faculty and students to that standard.
There are about a million bucks on the table right now for the Lost Cause monument’s relocation. What story is that money trying to tell about who we are?
One story out there is that onsite headstones will advance UM’s “educational mission.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. The proposed headstones are, well, “flim-flam.” They are frivolous nonsense.
Headstones condone bad history by miscounting and misidentifying soldiers buried in strewn-about graves. Headstones turn the monument’s new surroundings into a brand-new shrine for Lost Cause reverence. Headstones affirm that a pile of money can be spent — today, in 2020 — on stories that please neo-Confederates, while folks in the UM community must rely on food banks for themselves or their families.
The most pernicious story told by a headstone, however, is a new but old one. It is Mississippi’s greatest con. It is a lie told so well that, for too many folks today, it remains the cornerstone of their “Southern way of life.”
White lives matter most, especially lives given in defense of a conviction that black lives don’t matter at all.
So, who the hell are we?
One answer starts at that graveyard. The university must not allow headstones. They promote miseducation, not education. They are flim-flam, not honest reckoning. They are a con job.
They are not of a New Miss, by damn.
Darren E. Grem is an associate professor of history and Southern Studies.