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A Red Solo Cup History Lesson

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According to many folks on the outside looking in, we're a bunch of bigots. Oftentimes, folks in Starkville, Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa, and other places make said argument. But, are they justified in doing so? Let's look at the facts.

FACT: Ole Miss was integrated before Mississippi State.

FACT: Ole Miss was integrated before LSU.

FACT: Ole Miss was integrated in the same year as Alabama. Granted, Alabama was integrated a whopping two-and-a-half months before Ole Miss in a much less violent (albeit still controversial) fashion.

FACT: According to statistics available through the Princeton Review, only Mississippi State (19%) can boast a ratio of black students higher than ours (13%) among the aforementioned (Alabama has an 11% ratio while LSU stands at 9%). Maybe this statistic is misleading because Mississippi, as a state, has a higher ratio of blacks than both Alabama and Louisiana but it still somewhat demonstrates a point.

This raises a question: why are we the bigots? Oh yeah, the Rebels team name, Confederate flag, Dixie, and Colonel Reb. We wacky Mississippians just can't seem to get that whole "Civil War" thing out of our damn minds! Faulkner was right in that, down here "the past isn't dead. It isn't even past." It is true that Colonel Reb is no longer an official symbol of the university, Confederate flags are not flown in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and the playing of Dixie is quite limited, but we Rebels are still unashamedly proud of our Southern history and heritage. Really though, how hard are we clinging to our past, relatively speaking? Are we the only ones with vestiges from the Civil War lingering in the back of our collective mind?

The short answer is, of course, no.

While we may be more "direct" with our approach to Southern history, for many of the schools and fan-bases in the former Confederate States to fault us is quite hypocritical. Let's take a few examples I more-or-less thought up off of the top of my head and verified (sorta) with Wikipedia.

First, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The University of North Carolina General Alumni Association provides a nice etymology of the term and reveals that, while the term is quite old, it first gained popularity during the Civil War. The legend has it that a regiment of North Carolina's troops taunted a recently defeated group of Virginians by telling them that they needed to put tar in their heels so they would "stick better in the next fight." The term then became used to describe North Carolinians as a whole, alluding to the idea that the soldiers and people of North Carolina weren't exactly the type to back down in a fight. During the war and thereafter, the term was essentially a badge of honor for North Carolinians. Yet, no one is clamoring for the removal of the Tar Heels moniker.

Next up, Auburn. "War Eagles" were used by forces on both sides of the Civil War as scouts and mascots. While the true origin of Auburn's mascot and battle cry is shrouded in uncertainty, legend has it that the first eagle mascot was a former confederate bird who had been rescued from the battlefield and nursed back to health. When he began flying over the stadium during a defeat of the rival Georgia Bulldogs, he was viewed as symbol of good luck (a much cooler version of Mississippi State's cow story). The War Eagle is obviously reminiscent of the Confederacy, yet is not at all viewed as offensive.

Then there's LSU. These assholes have no room to talk. While I may have been stretching a bit with the aforementioned Civil War references, the history of the Louisiana Fightin' Tigers is well documented. Just check this out. The Louisiana Infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia were called, by Lee himself, the "Tigers" for their ferocity in combat and their ultra neat striped pants. The LSU Tiger mascot is an obvious homage to these bygone times. Toss in Louisiana's racial history (even recent events such as Jena Six or the aftermath of Katrina) and you've got quite a confusing situation. Most of these elements of LSU are hardly ever mentioned whereas one would be hard pressed to find a lot of media coverage about Ole Miss which doesn't mention our tumultuous past. While some people are indeed crying race (eh, not really) on this one, LSU has come nowhere close to the crucifixion upon a cross of political correctness that Ole Miss has had to endure.

Have these schools done anything wrong? Not at all. So why are we so evil? We've really cleaned up our act in the last 10 years or so but yet, many still insist that tailgating in the Grove is akin to Klan rallies. Some may wonder as to what the solution to all of this is. Well, short of hopping the the nearest Delorean and removing all Civil War references from the get-go or, better yet, using a more subtle reference than "Rebels," there's nothing we can do.

That is, of course, excluding the option of telling our would be finger-pointers to fuck themselves, but I'll leave that one up to you.


Post Scriptum: as you can tell, we've got a lot of time on our hands. 75 days until kickoff, bitches.