Dixie State University is in recent headlines again. This time it’s over the name, much to the chagrin of many in the community who feel that this particular debate has already been settled. Unfortunately, it hasn’t, and in the wake of several other civil rights violations being brought to light at DSU, perhaps this debate isn’t as dead as it may seem.
In 2013, the name came under fire, as well as the Confederate affiliations such as the mascot name and the Civil War sculpture it proudly displayed on campus. It was eventually decided that the name of the mascot would be changed from the Rebels to the Storm. And the statue came down.
But when an alleged unbiased vote was taken to determine the name of the newly ordained University, the name Dixie remained, this time much to the chagrin of those opposed to it.
In the wake of the racially motivated murders of nine people in Charleston last month, those in the nation who take immense pride in the Confederate heritage as they see it are now finding themselves having to defend their position yet again.
So let’s get the flag thing settled. All things aside, the Confederate flag is a part of our country’s sordid past. Fly it in museums. Stick it on your car. Wear it on your underpants. I don’t give a shit. But do not fly the flag of an invading, secessioist army that lost the war over any government or public institution. It simply does not belong there.
As for the name Dixie, proponents of it assert it is an innocuous word that has no ties to the Confederate South but rather just the cotton growing South. Brigham Young sent pioneers to St. George to grow cotton, and many were from the South. Mormons were largely abolitionists who did not own slaves. But let’s not forget that until very recently in the grand scheme of things, the Church did maintain that no black man could hold their coveted priesthood. And the teachings of the faith depict having colored skin as a punishment. Whatever would give anyone the idea that there were racist overtones to the name “Dixie” is beyond those who rally to keep the name. But not everyone.
Yet as this debate comes again to the forefront, proponents for keeping the name maintain it’s just a word. It has different meanings. It’s up to the perception of the person. The title Dixie did not equate to Confederate South. The only way it would is perhaps if the institution using the word also put up things like, say, a Confederate flag or perhaps had a mascot name affiliated with the Rebels. Or how about having black face facets of their parades? No, this is not an innocuous word to them. They made the association by their own volitions, and some view the removal of those symbols from the college without changing the name as mere placation. Not enough, that is.
At its core, racism is specific discrimination against a person or group for their ethnicity, just as sexism is discrimination against a person or a group for their gender. There are a host of forms of discrimination. Age, opinion, disability, religion, retaliation, so on.
Here is my point: Were this an isolated case—the name that is—I think Dixie State University might be able to make the case that the name has something to do with a loosely correlated heritage with the South and its cotton growing, or whatever. But taken as a whole, the school has been rife with discrimination in so many forms that their case falters. The multiple civil rights lawsuits the school is involved in now indicate this, as do many of the experiences of people who attend there. My research on the matter is exhaustive, and I can and will qualify this statement.
When trying to implement positive change for the institution and all who attend it, I think people are realizing that it is something done little by little. One battle at a time. At present, the school is fighting them on multiple fronts: four federal civil rights lawsuits currently and more lining up. These are not opportunists. These are people who believe the college—not just the individual agents at the school, but the entire institution—is fundamentally discriminatory and shows favoritism to certain sects but not others.
So no, this is not a waste of time or money. It is about real issues that are important to real people. It is one battle among many in the attempt to develop the school into what it needs to be if it’s going to call itself a “university.”
I wholeheartedly join with those who seek to change the name and think that “St. George State University” has a nice ring to it. SGSU. Go Storm!
See you out there.
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