Colonel Reb and the Change of the MS State Flag
I have been an Ole Miss Rebel born and raised in central Mississippi.
Not once– not even during college application season– was I swayed
by anyone to go somewhere else. It has always been Ole Miss. In the
eighteen years I have been alive, I have struggled with my biases and
how close minded I used to be. The most impactful article I read this
week had to be, “How They Do in Oxford,” by Kiese Laymon.
Laymon talks about the white pimp, Colonel Reb, Ole Miss’ old mascot.
Though discontinued as the official mascot in 2003, the year I was
born, I know for a fact that there’s photos of me standing next to
Colonel Reb, in some of them I am probably as old as five or six. I
also remember keeping a t-shirt with the Colonel Reb symbol well into
middle school, and I know that a time or two I would be glad to wear
it, especially after beating Alabama in football two years in a row.
Looking back on this I cringe– the same way Laymon’s mother did back
in his little league football years.
The way Laymon writes is telling and hits close to home. I can not
help but wonder why it took Mississippi so long to change the state
flag, and why did it only change after the threat of SEC football
being taken away from the state? What does that say about
Mississippians? What does that say about me? I could not vote on the
new design for the flag, but I gladly supported the change. I am tired
of Mississippi having a bad rap– even if I plan on leaving it after
Kiese Laymon writes, “The moral authority to critique Mississippi
generally, and Oxford specifically, definitely belongs to someone. I’m
not at all sure that someone is me.” Who’s moral authority is it?
Mississippians? African Americans? Northerners? I critique Mississippi
and its ways yet I know that I do not have the moral authority to.
I am embarrassed by the way I know some of my fellow classmates
vehemently disagree with the change of the flag– even if they aren’t
from here and haven’t lived in Mississippi their entire lives the way
I have. I have seen firsthand the close mindedness of my mother,
originally from Dallas, Texas, who went to school at Ole Miss, who
didn’t want the Confederate statue taken down in The Circle, didn’t
want the mascot changed, and at times I remember her saying “They’re
getting worked up over nothing,” when discussions of changing the flag
in my household happened. Meanwhile, my father, from the Mississippi
Delta, who talks of out of state students not understanding the
culture of Mississippi, and complaining when those students call the
poverty of Clarksdale or Greenville “charming,” believes in changing
the flag and mascot and relocating the statue. How is it that my
mother and my father are so different from one another, yet created
me, someone who’s ready for Mississippi to finally grow up?
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