Our shared racist tradition

Posted on Apr 4 2013 - 6:01pm by Tim Abram

By Tim Abram

The visceral responses to the Associated Student Body Judicial Council’s decision are ones that I could have anticipated. Frankly, I understand the sentiment that students felt as though the decision was reached behind a veil of secrecy.
According to the official ASB Judicial Council decision, “(There was) no guidance for the handling of anonymous complaints.” The decision later states, “The removal of Colonel Reb (Rebel) and its subsequent licensure release was a decision made in concert with and support by the student body, faculty, staff, administration, alumni, and other members of the University community.” If everyone recalls correctly, the preceding statement is absolutely true.
The decision to remove Colonel Reb as our on-field mascot occurred in 2003. That was a conscientious decision made by all of the involved parties to disassociate with Colonel Reb. Honestly, how much logical sense does it make to remove Colonel Reb as our mascot, yet let the title of “Colonel Reb” denote the “Mr. Ole Miss” equivalent? It makes none whatsoever.
As I scoured all of the tweets and Facebook statuses that were posted, it became increasingly obvious that we are dealing with more than just a title – we are dealing with intense emotional attachments. One gentleman tweeted, “It’s tradition. Not racist.” To this gentleman and to others who subscribe to this particular way of thinking, I would like to say: What exactly is the tradition that you so ardently defend?
According to Charles Eagles’ “The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss,” “The university’s founders and early supporters believed, therefore, that (the university) ought to inculcate and perpetuate the political and cultural values of the dominant slave-owning whites.”
Is this the tradition you are defending? I sure hope not. Or are you defending the tradition of exclusivity that barred African Americans from entering the university? Again, I hope not.
If appealing to tradition is the route one wishes to take in defense of Colonel Reb, I would ask one to consider the fact that racism is indeed “tradition” at this institution. There is no way around that point.
The remarks that appealed to tradition were not the comments that troubled me the most, however. One gentleman felt the necessity to tweet, “If you have a problem with ole miss tradition, then you probably shouldn’t go here. ASB is slowly killing this school one hand at a time. Colonel Reb started from a BLACK MAN NOT WHITE. It has no racial meaning behind it. Grow a pair and get over it! Or like I said don’t go here.”
Before unpacking the ignorantly chosen words of this gentleman, it is important to note that at no point do I wish to attack his character. I only intend to attack the not-so-well-thought-out ideas he set forth. I sincerely hope the thoughts of this individual are not widespread among my fellow classmates. Sadly, he was not the only person who suggested that if you don’t agree with Ole Miss traditions you should leave.
These words conflict with the message of acceptance that The University of Mississippi sets forth. Notice the distinction? I said The University of Mississippi.
There is a quote in the Union that says, “The University is respected, but Ole Miss is loved. The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.” These words exude profound truth to me now in ways that I have never thought about before. Some of us cannot graduate from Ole Miss not because the love we have for the institution differs, but because in the eyes of some, we were never a part of Ole Miss to begin with.
Some have stated the Ole Miss students did not “deserve” the way in which the ASB Judicial Council handled the situation. On the contrary, I think “Ole Miss” students deserve all of the negative attention that comes with the racist perception of Colonel Reb. Why?
Well, simply put, y’all wanted it that way. What’s sad is that students who wish to progress have to deal with that decision as well.

Tim Abram is a junior public policy major from Horn Lake. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Abram.