Professor teaches course titled “Honors Oppression and Social Injustice”
A University of Alabama professor’s desire to get the word “Dixie” removed from the school fight song has resulted in a student-led effort to do same.
Cassandra Simon, a 22-year veteran professor in the UA School of Social Work, has never gone to a school football game because of the song, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Last year, Simon (pictured) and other UA black academics “officially” asked the school to get rid of Dixie as, according to historian Tammy Ingram, the term is “often seen as offensive for ‘evok[ing] a very nostalgic and romanticized view of slavery.'”
Simon said in a letter to UA officials that Dixie “glorifies and vividly reminds many of the general acceptance of Blacks as non-equal and subhuman with an expectation that they be submissive.”
She suggested that “‘Bama” be used as a replacement, but added she and members of the Black Faculty and Staff Association were open to “other non-offensive and non-oppressive language.”
UA administrators, Simon said, “wanted to see more evidence that students wanted the change before moving forward.”
Simon teaches a course called “Honors Oppression and Social Injustice” for which a student requirement is “completion of an activism or advocacy project.” After hearing about her work in getting Dixie axed, Simon’s students began what’s known as the “Delete Dixie Initiative.”
The initiative’s website follows Simon’s call for replacing Dixie with “a more appropriate term” like “‘Bama” and says “By leaving the word ‘dixie’ in our fight song that is supported and backed by the University, UA continues to perpetuate harmful language and ideals.”
A month ago, the students also started a Change.org petition which claims the university “has refused to take action and has stated that this issue is of no concern.” Despite asking for just 500 signatures, the petition currently has barely half that number.
Comments on the petition include:
“[“Dixie” supporters] think citing Abraham Lincoln liking Dixie makes it not racist. Trust me we are definitely coming for him next. He was racist too.”
“Everyone deserves to feel safe and protected in their homeland.”
“Because as alumni it’s been too long that we’ve ‘celebrated’ such a dark, racist past. Time to move past the redneck hate speech.”
The first comment may be referencing a counter-petition which says “the man who was responsible for the end of slavery was a fan of the song ‘Dixie,’ and played it during his inauguration and after the surrender of Robert E. Lee. If the term Dixie was so linked to the Confederacy and slavery, then surely President Lincoln would not have been a fan of the song titled ‘Dixie’.”
The counter-petition currently has 678 signatures of a requested 1,000 and claims Dixie “has nothing to do with racism” but “has everything to do with being proud of where you’re from.”
The word “is nothing more than a synonym for the South with the connotation of home for millions of people,” it says.
Elizabeth Prophet, a junior majoring in social work who took part in the project, said that she didn’t know the connotations of the word “Dixie” when she first arrived at Alabama. Now that she has researched its history, she wants everyone to know.
“I wasn’t aware of the history, like I think many of the people on this campus aren’t, but now that I am, I feel that it’s my responsibility … [to] hear that information and take that information and act on it,” she said.
Another student involved in the effort, Eyram Gbeddy, a sophomore studying political science, said he knew about the “Dixie” connotations before he came to Alabama but didn’t believe he had the resources to tackle the fight song on his own. He became involved in Simon’s effort as a member of the Black Faculty and Staff Association Ambassadors, a student group that aims to bridge the gap between Black employees and students at Alabama.
Prophet added that the efforts regarding Dixie are but the initiative’s “first step”: “This is starting a conversation about the legacy of slavery, the legacy of the Confederacy and just the legacy of racism on campus.”
According to her faculty page, Professor Simon’s areas of expertise include “advocacy,” “community engagement,” “race relations” and “social justice.”
IMAGE: University of Alabama screencap