Why Ole Miss Needs an Ole Name Change

Why Ole Miss Needs an Ole Name Change
The name "Ole Miss" still conjures up this image. (Unaccredited Photo)

There is no such thing as the ghosts of Mississippi.

A ghost implies something, or someone, has died.

In the case of racism, hatred, intolerance, and bigotry in Mississippi, it is unfortunately alive and well.

In the wee hours of the morning following the results declaring Democrat presidential incumbent President Barack Obama winner over vanquished Republican challenger Mitt Romney in what was widely seen as a divisive election, a protest of the results emerged with about 30-40 participants and grew into crowd of about 400 people at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi according to a statement by university president Dan Jones.

Members of the crowd burned an Obama-Biden sign while others shouted racial epithets not only in protest, but also aimed racial insults at other students on campus. The shouting of racial epithets was actually confirmed to have taken place according to a statement issued by the university. Two people were arrested on minor charges as a result of the civil unrest and the protest was ended in short order by university police.

The actions of harken back to the riots on the university’s campus, which erupted after James Meredith attempted to enroll as its first black student in 1962. ESPN Film’s critically acclaimed “30 for 30” series last week debuted “The Ghosts of Ole Miss” documentary film commemorating the 50th anniversary of a state exploding with racial animus while simultaneously beaming with pride over an undefeated football team.

The actions by a few students yelling epithets after the victory by the President cannot remotely compare to the swelling violence, anger, and overt hatred which confronted the civil rights movement in the 60s. The mere fact students were able to quickly wrestle up 600 students to rally on unity after the incident is clear evidence we have moved past those times.

However, the protest, as well as the hateful comments on Twitter,  Tea Party members “declaring war”, and conservative commentators acting in utter denial of what happened, it is apparent there is a swath of people in this country who choose not to move forward with the progress of minorities, women, and LGBTs in this country.

The election of President Barack Obama was not only a mandate on his substantive vision for this country, it was also a mandate against what appeared to be a racial backlash to his 2008 election and the denouncement of racially divisive politics and voter suppression. The nation definitively proclaimed it was time to move “FORWARD”.

Although there is plenty of work to be done to bridge the divide and unite the country, the President has scored political capital with the American people who will get behind him to make sure the nation pulls it off.

I commend University of Mississippi President Jones’ swift statement condemning the racial unrest on his campus by saying: “all of us are ashamed of the few students who have negatively affected the reputations of each of us and of our university.”

I also commend the actions of the members of University of Mississippi’s student body who organized a “Unity Rally” at exact spot the campus unrest took place, which at 600 participants, outnumbered the crowd which protested President Obama’s re-election.

However, Mississippi has a tarnished past and needs to move past it or forever be haunted by its apparitions if it does not take a step further.

The University of Mississippi needs to discontinue referring to itself as “Ole Miss” and do so as soon as expediently possible.

Remove it from the school website, memorabilia, sports uniforms, everything. The school already rid itself of its insensitive mascot "Colonel Reb" in 2003, now it's time to go all of the way.

It’s time Ole Miss become the new miss.

That new miss is being known simply as The University of Mississippi.

By removing the "Ole Miss" moniker, the haunted house which encapsulates the state may not exorcise its ghosts overnight, but it can sure declare the house as clean now.

Exavier B. Pope, Esq. is an entertainment and sports attorney, media personality, syndicated writer, Fortune 500 speaker and peak performance strategist, author, philanthropist, and sports business and law blogger for ChicagoNow. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.

(c) 2012, Exavier Pope

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