I am a black woman who is an alumna of the University of Mississippi. There is a saying that says you never leave Ole Miss. Seeing this quote on the library wall my Freshman year, I never understood why this made sense. I do now. I did my post – graduate work there. Best seven years of my life! I lived Oxford so much that I lived and worked there three MORE years because it is a place that gets under your skin. I love my school. My time there is really why I am the way that I am. However that is challenged on a daily basis.
On Sunday, someone draped a noose and a Georgia state flag around a statue of James Meredith, the first black man to attend Ole Miss. Today people say, “there’s Ole Miss being racist again.” Today I am tired. I am tired of having to defend my school anytime that any thing remotely racit happens there. Am I saying that this type of behavior is okay? Absolutely not!! It hurts me to no end, especially with where my mind is about the Jordan Davis case and others like it. I’m just tired of the school that I love in the state where I grew up being a poster child for racial misbehavior. There are bigots everywhere and I am tired of my school having to take a 20 year step back every time someone wants to be stupid. Are we the only school to have a racist past? No, but our football team doesn’t always win and we don’t send dozens of black men to the NFL……so our penance isn’t quite paid yet. (READ: Alabama).
At work (where there is ALWAYS something red and blue displayed on my desk), I will inevitiably be asked why I love a place that is so racist. To them, I will reply:
- I went to Ole Miss because it made my parents and grandparents proud. I am only a generation removed from when black people could actually enroll without getting shot or coming up missing. II could go there as my first choice and not be scared to death. To go there and thrive, made the sacrifices and struggles they went through seem worth it. They told me so.
- Because I went to Ole Miss, I can feel comfortable in an atmosphere where everyone doesn’t look like me.
- It challenged the way that I look at the world. When your school has a past, you talk about it. A LOT. No professors shied away from it and I think to look at race relations as critically as I did, as young as I was, gave me a foundation in the way I look at things.
I challenge people to make a concerted effort to fight against racism and racist threats. Correct those that step out of line. Challenge the world. It’s everywhere. Not just Oxford.