Friday, August 8, 2014
From time to time, this blog has covered how white Southerners have used Confederate symbols to claim public spaces as their own. It's no secret that I believe, rather strongly, that the Confederate battle flag has no business flying over any statehouse (I'm looking at you, South Carolina) and that statutes of Confederate leaders should be removed from public squares (Yes, Richmond, that means you). In what I see as a major development on this front, The University of Mississippi, one of bastions of "The Old South" and often referred to as "Ole Miss," has started to recognize the damage that these images and symbols continue to cause:
To most University of Mississippi students and alumni, calling the institution “Ole Miss” is just natural. It’s what people say. University email addresses are @olemiss.edu, not @umiss.edu. But not everyone likes the name.
The university’s announcement on Friday that, as part of a review of race relations at the university, it would encourage “appropriate” use of the term won praise from some quarters but plenty of criticism. So did a series of other announcements by the university, which is hoping to change its association with symbols of the Confederacy. Reports commissioned by the university (which influenced Friday’s announcement) angered some students and alumni—particularly those with ties to the Greek system—by discussing the perceptions of some black students and alumni who are far more critical of university traditions and life at the university than are white students and alumni.
[...] The current review is broader than many of the previous efforts, which focused on specific practices such as flying confederate flags. The university is now discussing diversity broadly, and history and symbols and names that have created strong emotional connections for many students and alumni. The Ole Miss name is a particularly contentious issue.
[...] Of the Ole Miss name, they note that some but not all who use the name are aware of its antebellum past (a name slaves would use for the woman married to the plantation owner). And while the report agrees that many students and alumni love the name, it adds that they see the nickname as a symbol that holds the university back.
The University also looks set to change the name of “Confederate Drive” to “Chapel Lane” and change the names of some facilities to draw attention to the stories of black Mississippians.
(Image: A football game at "Ole Miss" before the University banned flags)