The South is a place of duality. Of rich and poor, of haves and have-nots, of white and black. Yet oftentimes we are blind to what these dualities mean, or that both sides of the duality represent not faceless ideologies, but people with sets of very real experiences.
Such is the debate over Dixie. One side calls vehemently for its reinstatement, accusing the other side of abusing the politically correct culture of American college campuses in order to push their agenda. Dixie is a tradition, an institution of Southern culture that has stood for more than a hundred years.
The other side says that Dixie is a holdover from a culture that has oppressed and excluded African-Americans for centuries. To them, a football game should not simultaneously be a reminder of the system of slavery that kept blacks in bondage since America was still bounded by the Appalachians.
Neither side, however, understands what the other means. The pro-Dixie side doesn’t see Dixie as a reminder of slavery. For most, it isn’t even a celebration of the Confederacy. It is a celebration of a shared memory of the South. Of family gatherings in the heat of a Mississippi summer, of grandparents who both flew the Confederate flag and deeply and sincerely loved their grandchildren. To them, the flag doesn’t mean hate, it means family and love.
The anti-Dixie side remembers the song’s roots in slavery and minstrel shows. Their families didn’t play it, but the white man who yelled the n-word out his window did. Their grandparents didn’t fly the Confederate flag, but they know that the flag presided over flag burnings and lynchings. Those songs and symbols connote hatred and reinforce their status as outsiders.
Yet they are not outsiders. Rather, they are the other side of the duality. Their claim on the South is just as strong as any other. Just because they stand against a certain tradition does not mean they do not understand the South. It means that the South has been viewed through a different lens. Similarly, the other side is not hateful or dismissive. Their South has just been one that relied on those traditions to build camaraderie and affection. But each side is just as Southern as the other. This is the duality.
So, what is there to do with those traditions that exclude a side of the duality? I love Dixie, it is a song that reminds me of my father and my family. But much as I love it, it is wrong to accept exclusion as inherent to duality. Ole Miss is a Southern school. This means both sides of the Southern duality must be brought in and accepted as equal participants in the community. The South is more than one group or one song. There is nothing wrong with loving Dixie, but there is something wrong in playing it in the face of the pain of our fellow students. Duality is a call for empathy, not division.