Chancellor Dan Jones on Tuesday continued the necessary severing of the University of Mississippi from even unintended links to segregation, banning a popular sports-event song with a controversial chant (added by some spectators) heavy with the suggestion of a return to a racist past.
The song, “From Dixie With Love,” is a medley frequently played by the university’s band, but a recent, contrived addition (far from being an old tradition) has some fans yelling, “The South will rise again.”
The words are solidly, obviously linked to the Confederacy, slavery and 20th-century segregation, whether those saying the words realize it or not. It was a slogan widely used in the 1950s and ’60s as Mississippi and the South resisted federally imposed racial integration.
The university has made giant strides in the past 15 years shedding its racist baggage entrenched in the national mind after a riot greeted admission of the university’s first black student in 1962; the chant moves backward. It plays directly into that outdated stereotype of the university.
Ole Miss, over time after its athletic teams became the Rebels, adopted the Confederate battle flag, a Col. Rebel mascot, and the song “Dixie” as its school spirit props. Desegregation, especially the recruitment of African-American athletes and a growing minority enrollment, made the flag and Col. Rebel, in particular, problematic.
Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat, himself an iconic figure of Ole Miss athletics and academia, led the abolition of the Confederate flag at all sporting events and banished Col. Rebel from the sidelines. The wider response has been overwhelmingly positive, and the university has received general praise for the action.
The insertion of the offending chant in “From Dixie With Love” is a setback in the effort to divorce Ole Miss from the worst of its past.
Elected leaders in the Associated Student Body instigated efforts to stop the chant. Jones backed the students. The alumni association and many others joined the effort to unambiguously shift the focus toward success in all 21st century endeavors.
“Let me be clear, all the leaders of this vibrant, diverse, modern university long ago denounced any association with those who espouse segregation. Here at the University of Mississippi, there must be no doubt that this is a warm and welcoming place for all. We cannot even appear to support … a revival of segregation,” Jones said in a letter to the university community.
More broadly, the university is a flagship institution, and the image it projects affects the whole state.
The chant hurts Ole Miss and Mississippi. Jones made the right decision for both.
NEMS Daily Journal