OPINION: Letter to the Editor: Response to ‘Why face what you can brush under the rug’

Posted on Feb 14 2019 - 5:50am by James Slaughter

Josh Baker asks an important question: “Who does removing the statue even help?”

On Oct. 1, 2013, audience members jeered, mocked, and shouted homophobic slurs at actors during a campus performance of “The Laramie Project” — a play about the murder of a young gay student named Matthew Shepard at the University of Wyoming.

In February 2014, two Ole Miss students named Austin Reed Edenfield and Graeme Phillip Harris draped a noose and the former state flag of Georgia around the statue of James Meredith. The flag they used featured the Confederate battle emblem, much like our current state flag, which led to its eventually being abandoned by Georgians in a 2003 referendum.

On Oct. 16, 2015, students staged a peaceful protest to request the removal of the state flag of Mississippi from campus. They were met with counter-protesters from the Ku Klux Klan and the League of the South, two of whom came armed with guns.

Gay students, black students and frankly any student who wants to live free from bigotry: these are the people who are helped by removing symbols of hatred and racism like the Confederate statue. These events, as well as the everyday harassment that students on campus suffer through slurs and insults, are fostered by an atmosphere that says these things are okay. Symbols have power. When bigots look around this campus, they see things that confirm to them that what they are doing is acceptable, or at least not that bad. There are buildings named after white supremacists like L.Q.C. Lamar, battle flags of the Confederate army billowing in the Grove on game days and a monument “To Our Confederate Dead” memorializing their sacrifice in defending the inhumane and evil institution of slavery.

In order to build a university that is respected by all, that is worthy of its motto “pro scientia et sapientia” and that improves the lives of its members and the people of Mississippi, we must build a campus free from intolerance. In order to build a campus that is free from intolerance, there are many things we must do. One of the things we must do is remove the Confederate statue.

James Slaughter is a senior economics and mathematics major from Biloxi.