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UM Once Again In Racial Row; Freeze Not Happy With Media Portrayal

There are many Ole Miss fans who can’t/won’t understand why the school’s administration has worked so hard to distance itself from the racial strife of the 1960s and the school’s own symbolic ties to the 1860s.  Many wondered aloud why ESPN chose to run “Ghosts of Ole Miss,” a documentary about UM’s racially-charged 1962 football season, in the middle of the 2012 season.

Here’s the reason: Because when your nickname is Rebels, you’re located in the heart of the old Confederacy, and you still have racial issues on campus… it’s a problem.  For the school.  For athletic recruiting.

It’s a problem.

In case you’re unaware, “Hundreds of Ole Miss students exchanged racial epithets and violent, politicized chants in response to the announcement of the re-election of President Barack Obama” on Tuesday night.  That according to Ole Miss’ student newspaper and its website.  “What began as an argument around midnight quickly spread across campus,” the paper reported.

University police had to respond to a yanked fire alarm (big deal) and crowds gathering at different areas on campus, including the Grove.  “UPD responded and forcibly dispersed the crowd,” according to the report.

University chancellor Dan Jones also put out a statement about the incident:

 

University police were notified by students shortly before midnight Tuesday that Twitter chatter was indicating students were gathering near the student union to protest the results of the election.  The officers found 30-40 students gathered in front of the union, and over the next 20 minutes the gathering had grown to more than 400 students, many of whom were chanting political slogans. The crowd was ordered to disperse by university police, and after about 25 minutes students had returned to residence halls. About 100 students gathered again at one hall, and university police dispersed the group and made two arrests for disorderly conduct, including one for public intoxication and one for failure to comply with police orders.

“While we are grateful that there were no injuries and there was no property damage, we are very disappointed in those students who took a very immature and uncivil approach to expressing their views about the election,” said University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones.  “The gathering seems to have been fueled by social media, and the conversation should have stayed there.”

“Unfortunately, early news reports quoted social media comments that were inaccurate. Too, some photographs published in social media portrayed events that police did not observe on campus. Nevertheless, the reports of uncivil language and shouted racial epithets appear to be accurate and are universally condemned by the university, student leaders and the vast majority of students who are more representative of our university creed.”

Jones said, “Parents are being notified that it’s a normal day on campus and that one of America’s safest campuses is safe again this morning, though all of us are ashamed of the few students who have negatively affected the reputations of each of us and of our university. We are initiating a thorough review of this incident to determine the facts and any follow-up actions that may be necessary.”

Jones said, “We are reminding our students of relevant statements within the university creed: The University of Mississippi is a community of learning dedicated to nurturing excellence in intellectual inquiry and personal character in an open and diverse environment. As a voluntary member of this community: I believe in respect for the dignity of each person. I believe in fairness and civility. I believe in personal and professional integrity.”

 

Meanwhile, football coach Hugh Freeze took issue with the fact that the student paper initially called the incident a riot:

 

“When I woke up and found out that the reports were false. … I immediately got with our coaches and we tried to find out the truth of what really happened and get that out…

Disappointed in the 30 or 40 that gathered to do whatever they were going to call that, demonstration.  Which, by the way, happened at a lot of places across the nation and not just Ole Miss.  And very disappointed in our local media that took it upon themselves to run with it and make it into something that it wasn’t.  We’re our own worst enemy when we do those kind of things… That’s frustrating.  Obviously when the social media hit, the other 200-300 came to watch and see what’s going on.  Again, I don’t condone any of the action.  Whoever the president of our United States is, is who I’m going to give honor to.”

 

The key line in all of that: “We’re our own worst enemy when we do those kind of things.”  Without question.

The fight over changing the on-field mascot — who gives a damn about a fuzzy cartoon character for kids? — from an old Southern gentleman/plantation-owner stereotype to a black bear brought national attention to Ole Miss for all the wrong reasons.

During Houston Nutt’s era, a tiny KKK rally attended by a handful of dimwits brought national attention to Ole Miss for all the wrong reasons.

When UM’s administration had to ban the playing of the song “From Dixie With Love” because students added their own “The South will rise again” chant to the ditty’s end it also brought national attention to Ole Miss for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

These actions by a few — a few of the tens of thousands of students on Ole Miss’ campus — aren’t helping the school in its efforts to put its past behind it.  They aren’t helping the coaches on the Ole Miss campus who have to explain to minority recruits that just because there are KKK rallies, neo-Confederate chants, and now race-driven dust-ups on campus from time to time, no, there aren’t any real race issues at UM.  That’s not an easy sell, folks.

According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger Ole Miss commitment Mark Dodson, Jr. of Memphis tweeted yesterday morning about the election night issue:

 

“Having thoughts about them riots last night at Ole Miss, don’t feel safe (about) that.”

 

Are there still some pea-brained racists on every college campus in America?  Yep.  Are there racists of every color?  Sure.

But Ole Miss has associated itself for the past century with the Civil War and all that goes with it.  It’s a school located in a state that just 50 years ago was at the forefront of America’s race battles.  A racially-charged incident at the University of Mississippi — big or small, regardless of who starts it or how heated it becomes — will always get more attention than any other similar issue that might or might not go on elsewhere.  Get used to it.

No doubt, the vast majority of Rebel fans are tired of seeing their school connected to Old South racism.  Unfortunately for them, it’s a small minority of Rebel fans and students who keep the spotlight burning bright on the school’s struggle to break with the past and move forward.

 


9 comments
John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

All...

 

Just a quick clarification.  I realize that this country is polarized that we've now become Democrats and Republicans rather than Americans -- which makes me want to puke -- but anyone defending the use of racial epithets and slurs is a buffoon.  End of story.  That's not pro-free speech, that's pro-racism.

 

I like breasts, legs and thighs.  

 

But I hate wings.  The far left one and the far right one.  If this county could ship one group to Canada and the other to the Mexico we'd all be a helluva lot better off.

 

John 

rgdownie
rgdownie

The students at Ole Miss just don't understand, it only works if your FOR anti-American, Liberal or communist  agendas. Its okay if you burn down the school as long as you wave a hammer & sickle, hate Christians & Jews love Palestinians etc etc. But if you proud of your past and not ashamed to be white and are a Christian than God help you. I'm glad to know some young people still have valves they think are worth standing up for.

I love football but it's still just a game. I LOL when I heard the Democrats crying out 4 more years, we DON'T have 4 more years left. (Economily-Speaking)

 

pbrstreetgang
pbrstreetgang

Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of history's great military tacticians and a bad-ass. 

Catfish
Catfish

Sounds to me like they were breaking up a perfectly legal political assembly. If a few idiots shout out racial slurs that doesn't make it any more illegal. If students had come out and protested Romney winning (if he had won) I'm willing to bet they wouldn't have broken it up unless it got very out of hand; and even if it had been a full blown riot, the university would probably be labeled by the media as racist for breaking it up. I'm sick and tired of double standards and liberal biases from the media and university administrators. Maybe if the media would stop highlighting "a handful of dimwits", then people from elsewhere would not think ole miss was a racist place. The number one reason the idiots do it is for media attention, anyway.  The media makes mountains out of mole hills to sell papers or advertisements or whatever, and the ones who suffer are the innocent majority of people who are categorized with the minority of idiots.

ChrisWynes
ChrisWynes

Why exactly are university police breaking up a political rally? From the description the chancellor gives, it sounds like the rally at the student union was a lawful political protest against Obama, and that the subsequent rally at the residence hall only turned ugly when police again intervened. You can call it uncivil or immature, but their viewpoints are as protected as anybody elses, and they are under no obligation to confine their views to social media and out of the public square just because the chancellor disagrees with them or thinks they express a message the university wants to distance itself from.

I4Bama
I4Bama

I once went to a game in Oxford and went to eat lunch in a cafe that had a life-sized mural of Nathan Bedford Forest on the back wall.  Hard to distance yourself from facts.

Statesman
Statesman

 @ChrisWynes

 Chris I believe that the university and most reasonable folks find it offensive for a group of people to gather and shout racial slurs.  Is it illegal? ...No, but it is not what a university with Ol Miss history or no history at all wants to project.

ChrisWynes
ChrisWynes

@Statesman This is the first I'm hearing of it, and I'm just going from the chancellor's own description that this was to protest the election results. If you've ever been to a political rally on a college campus, you know that some of the people's motives for protesting can be rather unsavory, and you can't always control what everybody says at those things. I stopped by an anti-war protest on the Mizzou campus when Iraq started back in '03, and some of the people protesting it had a bigger problem with Israel then they did with war, and there was some signage that could easily have started a heated confrontation with any visiting Israeli students. But protesting a war was clearly political, whatever the motivation of individual participants, just as protesting an election is. Protesting is a regular feature of college life for 50 years, and not something most university administrations try to break up by using police force. I get why Ole Miss would be particularly sensitive to this issue, but it takes more than sensitivity about the school's image and history for a public university to justify the use of force to disperse a political rally, which is what the chancellor described. If they were a private university, it would be a different matter. Alternatively, there are acts of violence that would justify breaking up a protest, but the chancellor is claiming either that those didn't happen or that police didn't observe them.

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