Not in Our Town: Ole Miss Part of Anti-Hate DocumentaryBy Sandra Knispel | Published 01 Feb 2012 09:06am |
Despite great strides, race relations still have some way to go at the University of Mississippi. That was the tenor of last night’s podium discussion at the university’s Overby Center. MPB’s Sandra Knispel was at the advance screening of the PBS documentary “Not in Our Town” in Oxford last night, which applauded the university for showing unity in the face of a KKK hate rally on its campus.
The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, like many others, had been following the escalating debate in the fall of 2009 over the chant “The South will Rise Again” at each Ole Miss football game. The argument raged ferociously over what many deemed racially divisive words. Then the KKK got into the mix and decided to stage a rally on the Ole Miss campus on November 21st, the day of the LSU game.
[Nat sound from documentary]: “We heard that the Klan was coming. Just hearing that gave me chills. But student leaders find a way to unify their campus.”
Originally student leaders were not sure what effect the KKK would have. Taylor McGraw, now the university’s associated student body president, was one of the students who participated in the counter-demonstration against the Klan that day.
“I mean I don’t think we knew for certain until we got there and everybody was booing them," McGraw recalls. "Not just Ole Miss fans but also LSU fans, which was kind of cool [laughter from the audience].”
Ultimately, the KKK’s appearance was shocking enough to mark a turning point in public opinion. Meanwhile, UM chancellor Dan Jones says he was not surprised that race was still a hot-button issue on campus.
“Race was still an issue in our university. And we weren’t going to be done dealing with tensions around race in our country and our state and particularly in our university for a long time.”
The PBS documentary “Not in Our Town” pays tribute to the students who organized against hate speech at Ole Miss. It’ll air on MPB television and nationally on PBS on February 13th at 9:30 pm.
Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford
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