Wednesday, May 17, 2017

time to go

i'll put my cards on the table. "building a proud tradition" means something to me. i'm a graduate of south burlington high school, and i can't pretend i don't get a little sentimental about the opportunities offered to me as a result of that.

these days south burlington high school is managing to hit national news because of our unfortunate mascot, which some people insist has nothing to do with racism.

oh, wait.

we don't have a mascot anymore because it was dropped decades ago because it was problematic but we still retained the "identifier".


south burlington rebels.

these days there's a lot of controversy about it because the school board has decided to get rid of it in the name of Not Being Racist and there are a lot of people around who are crying "HERITAGE!" and "PRIDE!" and "TRADITION!" along with a fair amount of "it's totally not racist. never was. shame on you for saying so."

except yanno.

south burlington was created in 1865 when burlington went off and did its own thing. as far as i can tell the rebel signifier was adopted in 1965, about seven years after south burlington high school was established. soooooo.... the end of the civil war, and the centenary of the end of the civil war? i'm sure someone thought that would be a real cute idea, because south and all that.

that TOTALLY has nothing to do with racism. it is pure coincidence that the school colors are blue and grey. i am certain that the widespread use of the CONFEDERATE FLAG in the school's iconography and the confederate soldier mascot had nothing at all to do with the painful era of dixiecrats against civil rights. probably nobody in south burlington in the sixties were even aware the civil rights movement was a thing.

it was not lost on me back in the '70s that this was a somehow inappropriate symbol, and not one worthy of our community allegiance. it occurred to me to wonder why we were playing dixie at homecoming.

it is not lost on me now that the same people who are talking about "heritage" are the same people who will tell you that the civil war had nothing to do with slavery and that the confederate flag had nothing to do with the jim crow south.

to have a high school play innocent with confederate imagery, gradually erasing those confederate histories but keeping the undercurrent is about as appalling as if we'd had the enosburgh anschluss.

but we don't. enosburgh had the good sense not to adopt a racist mascot (they're the hornets). champlain valley union high school decided years ago that "crusaders" was maybe not ok, and they changed to "redhawks". rice high school changed from being the "little indians" to "green knights".

too often when we are caught out in bad behavior, or even just culturally insensitive behavior, we do not react with an apology and an attempt to do better, but an insistence that the thing we were doing was completely fine in the first place and is not only totally ok, but our HERITAGE.

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