The controversy over the Ole Miss mascot, Colonel Reb, appears to winding down. The university has selected five mascots from which Colonel Reb’s replacement will be chosen: “a bear, a lion, a horse, a land shark (a reference to the team’s tenacious defensive line) and Hotty and Toddy (derived from the name of the school cheer).”
Both pro– and anti-Colonel Reb histories have been touted during the controversy, which stretches back several years. The pro camp argues that Colonel Reb is based on an African American man who sold peanuts at the Ole Miss ballgames. The anti camp points out the roots of the Colonel as an antebellum white southern planter.
Call it heritage if you like, and complain about political correctness run amuck, but there’s really no way around the historical context and symbolism of Colonel Reb. Regardless of its origins, the Colonel Reb mascot as it developed was intended to symbolize a system that allowed predominantly wealthy, white, southern men to enslave, exploit, and oppress other human beings and of a South that would rise again.
None of the proposed replacement mascots sound all that inspiring to me, but then again, as a Mississippi State alum, I’m biased. And they certainly have to be better than these two choices from 2003, right?
Update: Okay, maybe I spoke too soon. Here are the three finalists.