In the spirit of promoting a better and more complete appreciation of the current protests of the Confederate monument, it has occurred to me that the current protests against racism, bigotry and oppression should be placed in the proper context.
While a student at Ole Miss, I wrote an extensive paper on the events surrounding the ’62 riot and its aftermath. I also met James Meredith and interviewed Ross Barnett. The current protests against the memorial are indeed courageous because the “contextualization” document clearly indicates that, at the dedication ceremony some 100 plus years ago, vile sentiments, common in that day, were expressed.
The monument is, they would have you believe, therefore all about racism, bigotry, segregation and Jim Crow. Obviously, it takes brave people to fight against these things at the University of Mississippi.
James Meredith walked on to this campus, looked racism right in the eye and did not blink. If you want to know more about racism, bigotry and oppression, take a look at the famous photo of a girl being escorted by federal marshals into school in Little Rock, Arkansas, through a mob of angry, passionate people.
Consider Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was just too dang tired to put up with it, so she stood up by sitting down. That’s commitment and courage.
If the monument to fallen soldiers is the worst example of racism and bigotry that can be found today at Ole Miss, we all have cause to be proud. We should celebrate the fact that Ole Miss’s doors are open to all who would seek knowledge and enlightenment. If there is racism and bigotry on campus, let’s deal with that and leave the monument alone.
The dilettantes and pretenders stomping and chanting around campus today want to cloak themselves in the bravery and honor that rightfully belongs to James Meredith, Rosa Parks and the incredible girl in Little Rock. There are words that describe what they are doing: stolen valor. They want you to believe that they are brave, but until they march through a mob or face down a riot, I just do not believe they have the same commitment.
Ole Miss, Class of 1980