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Fair Or Not, Ole Miss Tied To Racism And The KKK Once Again

gfx - honest opinionDo a Google news search on Ole Miss this morning and you’ll soon find the school’s name attached once again to three ugly letters: KKK.  That’s because — as we told you yesterday afternoon — a top cornerback prospect from Alabama recently tweeted out the following message:

 

“Lemme get off Ole miss I’m sorry people y’all ain’t racist….y’all just have KKK marches every month.”

 

Asked if he’d been to Ole Miss, Marlon Humphrey — son of former Alabama and NFL star Bobby Humphrey — followed up with: “yes I went they had a KKK march and everybody decommitted.”

Now, the facts are these:

 

*  The player is the son of an Alabama player and many believe he’ll wind up in Tuscaloosa like his pop.

*  The last time an Oxford KKK rally got any mention in the media was way back in 2009 when anti-Klan protestors actually outnumbered the imbecilic racists in their bed sheets.

Humphrey eventually tweeted a major apology that appeared to be written by someone else: “This tweet is to the Ole Miss Coaching Staff and the Ole Miss family.  I have not been on your campus as a recruit.  I have not felt any Racism from anyone on your campus I am sorry for misleading anyone in thinking that there is any racism coming from the Ole Miss family.”

*  As noted in our story yesterday, Humphrey also offended another group when he tweeted some homophobic views.  (Apparently being prejudiced about skin color is bad while being prejudiced about sexual orientation is A-OK.  Got it, Marlon.  Thanks.)

 

So what do we know?

First, that Humphrey is yet another example of why coaches and parents should ban their kids from Twitter.  When it comes to tweeting teens, the potential negatives far, far outweigh the potential positives.

Second, we know that Humphrey was lying about the KKK rally and the wave of decommitments, etc.

Third, we know that the veracity of Humphrey’s tweets don’t really matter in the least.  Mississippi — the school and the state — has a nasty history when it comes to racism.  Regardless of any change or progress made in the past five decades, all it takes is a tweet from a teenager to tie the words “Ole Miss” and “KKK” back together again.

From Emmett Till to Governor Ross Barnett.  From Medgar Evers to the murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.  From the film “Mississippi Burning” in the 1980s to a 2009 Klan rally that drew more national headlines than actual Klansmen, the school and the state of Mississippi cannot escape their shared history.

Is that fair?  Not for everyone.  I suspect the majority of people in the Magnolia State and certainly those at the University of Mississippi have outgrown the racism of their parents and their parents’ parents.

I’ve been to Mississippi many times.  I drove the entire length of the state last year.  I’ll be back there in just a couple of weeks as a matter of fact.  As a visitor/tourist, I’ve never seen any type of racism with my own eyes.  (Though a pair of shirtless rednecks in Scooba did give me — a fellow Caucasian — a chilly “Where you from, boy” stare at a gas station last summer.)

But here’s the rub.  While it isn’t fair for all Mississippians and all Ole Miss students to be painted as racists with such a wide brush, it is fair for some.

Do you happen to remember why the KKK gathered for their tiny rally in Oxford four years ago?  It was because UM chancellor Dan Jones — after requesting and then ordering students to stop chanting the words, “The South will rise again,” at the end of the fight song “From Dixie with Love” — banned the playing of a favorite Rebel anthem at sporting events.

Jones sent out a letter at the time stating:

 

“We cannot even appear to support those outside our community who advocate a revival of segregation.  Consequently, I have asked the band not to play ‘From Dixie with Love’ at upcoming athletics events.  The absence of this song will send a clear message that the university is neither facilitating nor indirectly condoning the chant.”

 

So much for sending a clear message.  Not only did a few Klan members draw dozens of cameras to the UM campus over Jones banning of the song, but since then there’s been another fight over the school’s on-field mascot.  Ole Miss chose to put a guy in a Black Bear suit on its sidelines.  As silly as that is it disturbed a helluva lot of people who want the old “Colonel Reb” costume brought out of mothballs.  Colonel Reb, of course, is the ol’ Southern gentleman who conjures up images of a simpler time when whitey could peacefully sip his mint julep on the verandah while his darkeys entertained him with a work song from out in the fields.

Now who wouldn’t that image associated with their school in the 2010s?

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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.

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Colonel Reb Backers Keep On Fightin’

If I were a German immigrant, I think I’d fly a Nazi swastika in front of my house.  And when I was confronted by angry neighbors — about 20 seconds after hanging said flag — I’d simply say, “It’s heritage, not hate.”  You see, as someone from Germany, I could simply say that I was honoring my German ancestors, not what great grandpappy’s flag had come to represent.

But I don’t think I’d be able to pull that one off.  At all.  Do you?

(For those who don’t get hyperbole when it comes to point-making, no, I’m not serious about flying a swastika.)

Yet every year that “heritage not hate” message gets tossed around by folks who choose to fly the Confederate battle flag.  (The actual Confederate flag was a different piece of cloth altogether, by the way.)

“We’re not trying to offend anyone and we’re not pro-slavery, we just want to hold on to our traditions,” is the usual argument.

Of course, if these folks had been born with a different skin tone and a different family history, they might not be so pro-flag, pro-Dixie, or pro-Colonel Reb.

That’s right, this is about Colonel Reb.  It seems a group of Ole Miss students and alumni are kicking off a full week of events today aimed at bringing back the old Colonel Reb mascot to the University of Mississippi — ’cause in a world filled with war, sickness, poverty and heartache, nothin’s more important than standin’ up for a man in a stuffed suit.

“We made it for the students,” said Kellie Norton, a junior at Ole Miss and the student leader for the Colonel Reb Foundation.  “They absolutely love Colonel Reb, but they never had an opportunity to hang out with him or see him.”

They absolutely love him?  He’s been retired from the Ole Miss sidelines for nearly a decade.  The only students who might remember him are a few eighth year seniors at Delta House named Otter, D-Day and Bluto.

Come to think of it, this whole thing smacks of dumb college kids being dumb college kids.  Hey, I can say that, I was a dumb college kid. 

If the administration takes something away — no matter what it is — you fight to take it back.  If there’s a reason to gather ’round and play beer pong — say a pro-Colonel Reb rally — you embrace it. 

Unfortunately, this silly push to bring back the old Southern gentleman only fosters the idea that racism is alive and well on the Ole Miss campus.  And that, of course, is the reason Dixie was nixed and the rebel flag was banned from UM games in the first place.  Colonel Reb — a Southern plantation owner — was viewed by some as a racist symbol of a racist age.  So the school did away with him, too.  Way back in 2003.

Unfortunately, every time the University of Mississippi tries to take a step into the 21st century, someone stands up demands a step back to the 19th. 

Remember that handful of KKK’ers who spewed their nonsense on the Oxford campus two years ago?  That small group made awfully big headlines… mainly because no other campus in America has any KKK’ers marching around pushing for Dixie to be sung at ballgames.

Last week, Norton suggested on Mississippi radio that the “name Ole Miss” will eventually be shelved.  Ole Miss alum Brian Ferguson — also of the Colonel Reb Foundation — suggested the nickname “Rebels” will eventually go, too.  Colonel Reb is just another step in the PC-ification of Mississippi, in their view.

Well, we’re not buying what those two are selling.  Ask Southern Cal and Pitt how easy it’s been for them to get folks to refer to them as Southern California and Pittsburgh.  The name “Ole Miss” isn’t going anywhere.  Neither is the nickname “Rebels.”  After all, I haven’t heard anyone pushing UNLV to dump their moniker.

Loving one’s school is fine and dandy and traditions are what makes the SEC great.  But when a majority of people feel that a tradition is offensive and that it serves as a negative mark upon your school, that’s when it’s time to change the tradition. 

And a decade after that change is made, it’s probably time for people to go ahead and accept it. 

Rebels.  Ole Miss.  Those are traditions.

But a guy in a fuzzy mascot suit?  Sorry, I’d feel silly putting up too much of a fight for what amounts to a big stuffed animal.

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Rival Coaches Mentioned KKK Rally To Ole Miss Recruit (But No One Negative Recruits)

Ever notice how college coaches often complain about negative recruiting… yet none of them admit to doing it?  How’s that work?

Here’s how: They all negatively recruit.  Or at least the great majority of coaches negative recruit.  How could they not? 

“We’ve got a better campus than they have.” 

“We’ve got a better hotel management program than they’ve got.” 

“We’ve got fewer KKK rallies on our campus.”  Wait.  What?  Huh?

SportsByBrooks.com has connected some dots from across a number of Ole Miss fansites and to show that a new UM commitment says coaches from other schools scared him out of making an early pledge to Houston Nutt… by warning of last year’s KKK rally on the Ole Miss campus.

According to RebelSports.net:


“(Floyd) Raven said rival schools had repeatedly made him aware of a 2009 Ku Klux Klan demonstration on the Ole Miss campus, one that was met by a student-led, multi-racial, non-violent protest of the Klan’s presence.  The implication from rival recruiters was racism was a problem at Ole Miss.”


And according to OMSpirit.com, Raven said:


“I didn’t start learning about the race issues until I started getting recruited by Ole Miss and a lot of fans would send me stuff to my Facebook page about the Klan gathering when they played LSU and things like that.  Some coaches would tell me some things too so it made me really nervous and that’s why I waited so long to commit.”


Raven saw no racial issues on a visit to Oxford and therefore committed to the Rebels on Saturday.

In case you’ve forgotten, the KKK “rally” in November of 2009 turned out to be a group of 11 rednecks who gave a few Nazi salutes before being shouted down by Ole Miss students.  The rally was scheduled because UM officials had ix-nayed a song called “From Dixie with Love” from Ole Miss’ pregame festivities.

Last November, Nutt made the following statement when asked if rivals were using the Klan rally to recruit against his program:


“Without a doubt.  And that’s fine.  It’s not going to help them.  This is one program in the state that’s getting very strong.”


Nutt’s comment about “one program in the state” seemed to suggest that Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State program might have been involved in the negative recruiting.  Mullen said he would never do such a thing — nobody ever would, right? — and then he whipped Nutt in the Egg Bowl.  Afterwards he famously said that his program was the one going in the right direction.

Ugly stuff.  And definitely something to remember the next time your school’s head coach whines about negative recruiting and then follows it up by saying, “But I don’t do it.”  Well a lot of somebodies do it.  Just ask Floyd Raven.

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