No love for the Klan at Ole Miss

KKK assembles before Ole Miss vs. LSU game in Mississippi.Twelve members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan rallied at yesterday’s game between Ole Miss and LSU in Oxford.  For years the Ole Miss band has played “Dixie” during football games.  In 1962, then-governor Ross Barnett got so choked up listening to the song at halftime that he nearly reneged on a deal he had made with John and Bobby Kennedy to allow James Meredith enroll at the University.  The playing of Dixie was recently discontinued because students refused to stop chanting “The South’s gonna rise again,” at the conclusion of the piece.

This tradition gave the White Knights the impression that Old Miss students shared their hankering for the good ole days of Jim Crow segregation. 

Not so much, it appears.  Two hundred and fifty protestors showed up in Oxford to shout down the Klan.  While white students at Ole Miss enjoy shouting racist slogans at football games it’s more of a sentimental journey than a serious statement of intent.  At any rate, no one in Oxford was willing to stand with the beleaguered Klansmen. 

Saturday’s cold reception likely left the White Knights more than a little confused.  If the student body loves to chant “The South’s gonna rise again,” at the conclusion of Dixie, why didn’t they support the brave men-in-sheets fighting for their freedom of speech? 

But there’s a big difference between chanting provocative slogans designed to goose the Yankees and pushing hard-core Klan racism.   Few in Mississippi care to take their racism straight these days.  Semi-racist hints and insinuations are cool and all that, but who wants to be associated with the KKK? 

Of course, the same was true back in ’62.  The Citizen’s Councils were formed because the redneck Klan was giving the state a bad name. 

I’ve always wondered how the black football players on the Ole Miss squad felt when they heard the band playing Dixie and thousands of fans calling for a reprise of Jim Crow glory.  The administration didn’t want to eliminate “Dixie” from the band’s repertoire but when fans refused to quit shouting the offensive slogan the song had to go.

It is very difficult for folks who don’t live in Mississippi to make sense of all this.  I suspect it’s just as hard for native Mississippians to sort it all out.  Maybe it all boils down to what feels good at the time.  Chanting about the rebirth of the Confederacy feels good; being associated with over-the-top racists doesn’t.