The University of Mississippi, once a bastion of racial intolerance and turmoil, has become the latest battleground in the fight to remove vestiges of the American South’s racist past.
In this Friday, Oct. 18, 2015, file photo, Sunny Fowler speaks during a rally by University of Mississippi students calling on the university to remove the Mississippi state flag from university grounds, in Oxford, Miss. Student senators at the university voted Tuesday night, Oct. 20, to ask the school administration to remove the Mississippi flag from campus because it contains a Confederate battle emblem that some say is an offensive reminder of slavery and segregation. (Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle via AP, File)
On Oct. 20, the Ole Miss Associate Student Body Senate voted to remove the state flag, which bears the Confederate emblem, from the campus. The resolution passed with 33 student senators voting in favor of it, 15 opposing and one abstaining, according to MSNBC.
According to the Huffington Post, once the resolution is signed it would be up to the school administration to make a final decision.
Mississippi is the only state in the country whose flag still has a Confederate insignia, according to MSNBC. And, some students at the institution feel that with the emblem still on the flag is keeping the campus divided.
The symbol on campus “undermines efforts to promote diversity and create a safe, tolerant academic environment for all students,” according to the students’ resolution, which was cited by MSNBC.
After the student senate’s vote was passed, the University of Mississippi Staff Council passed their own resolution, in which they agreed with the student’s decision.
“We, the staff members of the University of Mississippi, our regional campuses, and the University of Mississippi Medical Center stand together and offer unwavering support of an inclusive campus and we call for the removal of the Mississippi State Flag until there is a state flag that is representative of all Mississippians,” the resolution read.
However, not everyone agrees with that stance. More than 200 people have signed a petition in favor of keeping the flag, according to CNN. Also, the Daily Mississippian, the campus newspaper, reported that on Oct.16, after the NAACP sponsored a rally in protest of the flag, members of the International Keystone Knights, a Ku Klux Klan affiliate, showed up to show their disapproval.
University of Mississippi students hold signs during a rally calling on the university to remove the Mississippi state flag from university grounds, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Oxford, Miss. (Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle via AP)
Shaun Winkler, who is a member of Ku Klux Klan affiliate, the Keystone Knights, complained about the pro-justice movement that helped to precipitate public scrutiny of the Confederate flags, telling the Daily Mississippian, “Black lives don’t matter.”
“I feel that the Klu Klux Klan is no more racist than the Black Lives Matter (movement),” Winkler told the campus paper. “The Black Lives Matter is just as racist as the Klu Klux Klan could be.”
Buka Okoye, president of the University of Mississippi NAACP, told HuffPost that students are not going to rest until a resolution is made.
“We will not stop organizing until we have secured for ourselves and our future students a safe space where one can grow intellectually, and not feel uncomfortable navigating in an oppressive environment with such a blatant symbol of hate, said Okoye.
The push to remove the Confederate flag has become a national debate after the Charleston, N.C., shooting in June, where nine Black parishioners were killed in Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Their Shooter, Dylan Roof, could be seen in photos holding up the rebel flag.
According to CNN, three state universities in Mississippi do not allow the flag to fly on their campus.
The University of Mississippi’s Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning reports that the student body is 14.3 percent African American.