The South Will Rise Again

This short film follows two students at the University of Mississippi in the wake of the decision to discontinue the playing of “The South Will Rise Again” at the end of football games.  It offers some insight into the racial and generational divide at the university over the continuation of some of its more controversial traditions.

CraterThanks for reading this post. Scroll down, leave a comment and join the conversation if you are so inclined. Follow me on Twitter and join the Civil War Memory Facebook group for continuous updates and additional links to newsworthy items from around the interwebs. Stay up to date by subscribing to this blog’s feed. You can also check out my recently published book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

19 comments… add one

  • Al Mackey Aug 25, 2012

    So we hear so often from neoconfederates that the official flag of the KKK is the US flag, yet at that official KKK rally there was not a single US flag in sight. Hmmm.

    Good film juxtaposing the two viewpoints.

  • Michael Douglas Aug 25, 2012

    I grew up during the era of the black civil rights movement. Protestations like those of the young woman who believes that people who are constantly “looking for racism” are the problem echo the sentiments of many her fellow racists of yesteryear. These were the people who claimed there were no racial problems in the south except those fomented by “agitators” from the north.

    Yes, I called her a racist. Not all racist sentiment comes from the rabid, foam-flecked lips of hood-wearing, cross-burning rednecks. Not all racism is virulent or blatant. We speak in our culture of “sins of omission.” I think there is somewhat of an analog in racist thought and behavior.

    This young woman won’t look beyond her position of privilege and self entitlement to admit, even for one instant, that the feelings and perceptions of African Americans *might* be valid. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I found her choice of words interesting. She didn’t say that racism was an issue. It’s people “looking for racism” that are the issue. It never occurs to her that there are people who don’t have to look for racism. It’s part and parcel of their daily lives in some form or other.

    Knowing how these mind sets work I’d be willing to bet that there were those who said things to the effect of, “black people are the real racists” and “I didn’t have a problem with blacks before but now. . .” As one of SHPG’s finest once said, speaking of the period during and after the War, “We didn’t hate the negroes then, that came later,” meaning with Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement.

    I can understand that cherishing school spirit, as exemplified by symbols perceived by many as racist, is not necessarily racist. But blaming the “victim” and denying that the grievance has any validity certainly are.

    On the other hand, perhaps it’s just the fact that I, admittedly, don’t understand collegiate football culture. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around folks who are more concerned about the glory of Penn State and its graven images than they are about young boys being serially raped.

    • ryan Aug 25, 2012

      Michael, you are simplifying what is a complex subject. While I agree that this woman is ignorant of other’s experiences she unwittingly hits upon a salient point. That point is that many today DO look for racism/sexism/whatever ism that comes to mind. We are a country that is overly sensitive, that presumes bias(which is in itself is the act of a prejudiced mind) before proof has been presented. The Not-So-Good Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are excellent examples of this. They routinely assume that someone is being racially biased without having done any research. All they need for a judgment is white skin plus black skin plus conflict equal racism. That is the formula they use to render their judgment.

      It is a common tactic for coffee house liberals like you, Michael, to talk about other white people’s “sense of privilege and self entitlement” from an ivory tower of righteousness. As if YOU are somehow above the prejudices and narrow-mindedness. Such arrogance on your part. You are no better than this woman. Your bias simply manifests itself differently. No person is without bias or prejudice. We all have simplistic or inaccurate perceptions of other people because of ignorance, a negative experience, or a combination of the two.

      I know this is true for blacks. I work in a department filled predominately by blacks and to be quite frank, they are some of the most sexist, bigoted people I have ever been around. Homophobia in particular is intense.

      It is easy to accuse others of prejudice or bias. It is well-nigh impossible for us, as individuals, to admit that we too are insensitive or ignorant towards other people. This is unfortunate because one of the greatest sources of conflict is arrogance and self-righteousness. This country won’t begin to move forward until everyone admits that they have a problem. Our issues of intergroup hostility goes way beyond race or gender. Those who pay attention know this.

      • Michael Douglas Aug 26, 2012

        Ryan, unlike you, I paid attention to your words in hope that you might have something worthwhile to say. I realized my error when you invoked the standard, tired and overworked Sharpton and Jackson routine (surprised you didn’t throw the NAACP in there) and proceeded to the black-people-are-more-racist-than-white-people idiocy (a standard in the playbook, as pointed out in my post above).

        Then you proceed to the presumptions and name-calling, showing me that you have no argument of any worth to my time or energy. I will address one thing though. Coffee house liberal (there you go with the playbook quotes again. No originality)? I grind and roast my own beans, so I don’t hang out in coffee shops. And my liberal friends might want to have a conversation with you on the error of your presumption about my socio-political leanings (“F***ing centrist!” is what got lobbed at me yesterday :)).

        What I am, among other things, is a 60-year old gay, African American of mixed race heritage. Some of my ancestors were free, some enslaved, some enslavers. I have black ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. I have stories, handed down, of my family in slavery. I have an ancestor, who was a prominent Republican politician in his state, who was assassinated by a lynch mob of racists. *I* remember Jim Crow. I remember the Civil Rights Movement. I think for myself and my opinions are my own, based on experience, observation and education.

        I have lived my entire life in a milieu of racism, and I know it when I see it. I don’t need Jackson, Sharpton, the NAACP, the SPLC, “coffee-house liberals” or any other of your agitator bogeymen to tell me what it is or point my attention to it. Like I said, people don’t have to look for racism. They live with it. If they did indeed spend as much time looking for it as those of your ilk say, you’d be in big trouble. Trust me on this. Most times it’s ignored.

        I’ve heard it said that the only thing a racist hates more than black people is being called a racist. Then there’s the other bunch who gets their panties in a wad over racism being pointed out. You know, the I-have-nothing-against-black-people-but-I’m-starting-to-because-all-they-do-is-go-on-about-racism-and-they-need-to-get-over-it-because-they’re-the-real-racists?

        Anyway, not gonna waste any more time on this particular convo. Take your parroted playbook quotes and your strawmen and platitudes and find another sucker.

        • stephen matlock Aug 27, 2012

          You and I are about the same age, so we probably have some common memories of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

          It’s kinda crazy, isn’t it, that something that, at the time, seemed so rational and human–the simple ordinary inclusion of everyone into our mutual American identity–is still seen as a threat and something to be opposed. We went through a lot of stuff in the 50s and 60s, and I really thought that only a very few people would hold on to a such a backwards and even life-sucking viewpoint.

          There are a lot of decent people out there, and you probably know them. It is just too bad that there are still people who want to hold onto a negative point-of-view, a philosophy of life that not only hurts others but also hurts themselves.

          Anyway, I just wanted to say I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your words.

      • David Woodbury Aug 27, 2012

        It’s really annoying and dismaying to hear arguments that speak of “the blacks,” as if that were some monolithic group of people.

  • CMcWhirter Aug 25, 2012

    First of all, thanks for posting this Kevin. It was extremely well done and I hadn’t encountered it elsewhere.

    What’s left unsaid in the video is that the fact that Ole Miss plays “Dixie”at all is controversial and has produced a long history of controversy. Indeed, this was a problem at several southern colleges. Ole Miss and The Citadel have received the most attention because they were the longest hold-outs. I’m not sure if The Citadel still uses it but Ole Miss certainly does (Georgia Tech includes one bar of “Dixie” in their fight song but, as far as I know, nobody seems to mind). Not only does Ole Miss play it, but many audience members put their hands over their hearts as it’s performed. Most university band have tried to water-down the song’s controversial elements by pairing it with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” so it makes sense that the students were perceived as crossing the line when they began chanting “The South Will Rise Again” instead of “His Truth is Marching On.” They were effectively nullifying the original intent of pairing a Union and Confederate anthem.

    I agree with the girl in the video that many of the people who salute “Dixie” and chant about the South’s rebirth either don’t understand the historical connotations of these symbols or have redefined them but that doesn’t nullify the song’s impact to those who understand its history. “Dixie” has 150 years of political and cultural baggage attached to it and it’s difficult if not impossible to ignore that. I doubt we’ll ever be able to hear that song without also hearing the anthem of the Confederacy and certainly people chanting “The South Will Rise Again” doesn’t help.

    • CMcWhirter Aug 25, 2012

      A brief correction. In my previous post I stated that Ole Miss still plays “Dixie” but I think that’s incorrect. I’m not sure if banning “To Dixie With Love” led to “Dixie’s” complete elimination from football games or only within the context of its pairing with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” If there’s someone out there with first-hand knowledge, please fill me in.

  • John Aug 25, 2012

    How sad. On the one hand you have a young white woman and her like minded fellow white students living in the past. On the other hand, you have a young black woman and her fellow students, both black and white, looking to the future. I feel sorry for the first group and hopeful for the second.

    • ryan Aug 25, 2012

      It is their heritage. Why are you asking them to forsake their ancestors? More alarmingly, why the heck are you encouraging people to forget the past?

      Then there is the problem of the future becoming ever bleaker by the day.

      • Kevin Levin Aug 26, 2012

        It seems to me there is a difference between forgetting one’s personal/collective past and trying to find the most appropriate form of remembrance given the place in question. No one is seriously suggesting that anyone forget the past.

        • Bryan Cheeseboro Aug 26, 2012

          “No one is seriously suggesting that anyone forget the past.”

          I disagree with that, Kevin. Hanna Loy (the White girl in the program) is trying to embrace “The South Will Rise Again” while forgetting the history associated with that phrase. Standing against obesity, teen pregnancy and racism is fine but “again” begs the question of what the South rose for in the first place.

          I like something my wife has said before: “If you plant an acorn, an oak tree is going to grow. And no matter how much you say it’s not an oak tree, it’s still an oak tree. You can’t change its roots.”

          • Kevin Levin Aug 26, 2012

            Bryan,

            I agree that Hanna Loy is not taking the history of the song seriously enough, but I don’t think that she is suggesting that the history ought not to be acknowledged in some way. She, however, associates it with something else entirely. We have to be willing to acknowledge the complex relationship that people can have with these traditions. People need to be willing to talk through some of these very difficult issues.

      • Margaret D. Blough Aug 27, 2012

        Ryan-Well, this young woman feels perfectly free to tell people that they should forget events/put those events behind them that they either personally experienced or followed on the news as they were happening.

        Mississippi wasn’t just any Jim Crow southern state. It was the Murder Incorporated of the Jim Crow states, including the state-sponsored State Sovereignty Commission complicit in many of those murders including the Goodman-Chaney-Schwerner assassinations in 1964.
        http://www.ajr.org/article_printable.asp?id=3852

        Then there was the incredible violence that met James Meredith and the US Marshals and other federal officers who protected him at Old Miss.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEv8WBCYF7k and http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=Mn4M8wmoPto (video from the U.S. Marshal’s Museum) and http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=HVqvCuOwpZU&feature=related (Deadly Riots at Ol’ Miss)
        The future will be bleaker if people like the young lady so upset at losing her traditions refuse to show any empathy for others who saw the other side of those traditions and are as much students at the University of Mississippi as she is.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Aug 25, 2012

    This idea of “it means whatever I want it to mean” is, I think, some people’s way of trying to embrace words and phrases with troubled histories without understanding those histories- Black people who think they can get something positive out of the word “nigga” (not “nigger”); or people like the cast of Jersey Shore who refer to themselves as “guidos” and “guidettes,” terms historically used as insults to Italian-Americans.

    I feel like Hanna Loy, the blonde girl featured in this program, simply wants to close her yes to the reality of what phrases like “The South will rise again” have meant to other people. And she does what I’ve seen too many people on the internet do- blame the victim for the problem rather than look at those who created the problem. Sorry to say it, but I think this girl is an ignorant person who doesn’t even know what she’s talking about.

    • Andy Hall Aug 26, 2012

      This idea of “it means whatever I want it to mean” is, I think, some people’s way of trying to embrace words and phrases with troubled histories without understanding those histories. . . .

      I feel like Hanna Loy, the blonde girl featured in this program, simply wants to close her yes to the reality of what phrases like “The South will rise again” have meant to other people. And she does what I’ve seen too many people on the internet do- blame the victim for the problem rather than look at those who created the problem.

      This is exactly right. This is par for the course; it’s a way of avoiding unpleasant realities and information that might force one to doubt one’s views. I know what this symbol means and if you disagree you’re just ignorant. That game can be played on both sides, but it’s a cornerstone of the Confederate heritage movement.

      • Kevin Levin Aug 26, 2012

        It’s not that I don’t agree with this interpretation, but I do think that we should keep in mind that we are dealing with a privileged college student, who has probably never had to deal with the legacy of such a painful history.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Aug 26, 2012

    “I work in a department filled predominately by blacks and to be quite frank, they are some of the most sexist, bigoted people I have ever been around. Homophobia in particular is intense.”

    Just like you don’t understand Black people who “look” for racism, I don’t understand people who can only seem to see the worst examples of Black people.

    I go to a predominantly African-American Church (funny, it used to be predominantly White) and I’ve known some of the Black people there for over 25 years. Many of them are college graduates, several with advanced degrees. I knew many of these people when they were single. I’ve seen them get married and build great two-parent families and send their . I see people in professional careers. I know one of our Church elders makes six figures.

    Honestly, I don’t look to salary and college dregrees to measure people. But I’m bringing all this up to show that people like this (including myself) exist.

  • Boyd Harris Aug 27, 2012

    Thank you for posting this video, Kevin. I am a third year PhD student at the University of Mississippi. Needless to say, this is not the first time I have seen this video. The legacy of slavery, the war, and racism is very apparent on the campus landscape. We have a Confederate cemetery (right behind the basketball stadium) and several statues and markers commemorating the Civil War. The Lyceum (the oldest building on campus) has visible bullet holes from the 1962 riot, when James Meredith needed the National Guard to just register for classes. Even the name “Ole Miss,” which was created in the early 20th century and is a variation on what slaves called the mistress of the plantation denotes the South’s racialized past.

    But let me tell you about the students. A lot of the conversation about this video has dealt with Hannah Loy’s views. Have I met people like that here? You bet, but they are in a quickly growing minority. Teaching the American history surveys (History 105/106) has provided me with ample opportunity to observe discussions about slavery, racism, and the Civil War. What amazes me every semester is the eagerness of the students to talk about these complex and difficult topics. The students bring their own observations and biases to the conversation, but more importantly, they also bring a desire to gain further knowledge about their past. I never have to prod my students to discuss these issues. I mostly take on the role of moderator in order to ensure an open and safe environment for these discussions.

    I wish I could say that we change everyone’s mind, but of course that is not true. What I can say, however, is that I am seeing progress at the University of Mississippi. In the past two years I have seen Colonel Reb discontinued as the mascot and James Silver honored at the university that shunned him fifty years ago. This year the William Winters’ Institute for Racial Reconciliation will operate a tent in the Grove on game weekends. The goal is to challenge the long held view of African Americans that the Grove is a Whites-only space. Progress will be slow, after all this is Mississippi, but I have witnessed first hand the possibility of change at the University.

Leave a Comment