The Ole Miss marching band will be changing its pregame routine again.
Athletic director Ross Bjork said Friday that the university will provide a pregame show that will appeal to “all fans,” one without any form of “Dixie.”
While many fans might scoff at the new measure, I applaud it.
It should be noted that the Ole Miss band has played only a portion of the song since it rightfully scrapped “From Dixie With Love” in 2009. For those wondering, that song simply was a slower version of “Dixie,” which no longer represents the majority of students and fans of Ole Miss, nor most of the inhabitants of the state of Mississippi, of which I am one.
Removing “Dixie” from the band’s playlist could have been done by abolishing “From Dixie With Love,” and doing so is long overdue. Anyone with any historical knowledge of the song knows its background. The song “Dixie,” written in 1859 by Daniel Decatur Emmett, represents much of the troubled history many at Ole Miss and within the state of Mississippi are trying to get away from.
Ole Miss has shown progress toward equality by a number of measures over the years. When Tommy Tuberville asked for the Confederate flag to be removed from any association to Ole Miss, it was a giant step in the right direction. Hugh Freeze has asked for the Mississippi state flag to be changed because of the portion of the flag that is used by hate groups.
In 2014, the school renamed Coliseum Drive to Chucky Mullins Drive. Mullins is known throughout the Rebels' family as a student-athlete who exhibited courage, tolerance and love for all.
What Ole Miss fans should realize is “Ole Miss” is a way of life to many. The recent success of the Rebels' football team has opened the eyes of the nation to a different Mississippi than the one that exists in many minds – a new Mississippi, a more tolerant Mississippi.
We all are aware that college football is more than a sport. At Ole Miss, it is more than a piece of cloth flying on a pole or a two-minute song played by the marching band.
In the mid-1980s, I attended Ole Miss games as a child with my grandfather. The stands were full of Confederate battle flags and the band played "Dixie." For most people, myself included, that was “Ole Miss.” Nothing more. That was the norm; it was accepted.
As I grew older, I evolved my thinking through education of what it means to be respectful of all people. That same grandfather told me if one person is offended by anything you do, you should evaluate your stance. He was right.
As an adult, I have written blistering articles on the symbols that surround Ole Miss’ history and that of the state of Mississippi. Like always, Ole Miss and its administration continue striving to rally its fans and friends toward a more inclusive environment.
I want to work toward changing, once and for all, the mistaken opinions of outsiders who think nothing has changed in Mississippi since the 1960s. I want to change the negative connotations that surround my state and my school. If any of our friends and family and people we don’t know are offended by “Dixie,” if anyone does not feel 100 percent welcome inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, change is required.
Ross Bjork heard the call and responded in kind.
As for the game-day environment, I expect it to improve even without “Dixie.” Ole Miss fans of all backgrounds can continue to feel welcome. The Ole Miss administration has created a terrific experience for the 2016 season with the addition of three video boards, a 360-degree sound system and new lighting for Vaught Hemingway Stadium.
Bjork and the Ole Miss administration should be proud that Friday was a day that Ole Miss will remember fondly. Ole Miss took another step forward.
Ole Miss is doing the right thing. It now is time for the governor and the state's elected officials to stand up and do theirs.
(You can follow Brad Logan on Twitter @BradLoganCOTE)
© 2016, Brad Logan. All rights reserved.
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