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Essay: 'Your Heritage is Hate', Take Down The State Flag at Ole Miss

by Ann-Marie Herod /

UPDATE: On Monday, Oct. 26, campus police lowered the state flag from Lyceum Circle. It will be placed in university archives, school officials said.

Whenever the wind blows and the Mississippi State flag flies boldly in the center of campus, it lets me know that at one point I was not wanted at this University.

The University’s Interim Chancellor had openly condemned the use of the state flag so many may wondered why it had not been taken down yet. But I believe it was because the University administration wanted to see students take action.

This week 49 student representatives spent two hours debating the removal of the Mississippi state flag from campus in Bryant Hall, a building located just a few feet away from the center of the circle which houses the American flag and Mississippi State flag. Some students solely represented their constituents, while others spoke to what they believed was morally right.

These representatives, known as the Associated Student Body Senators, ultimately voted to pass a resolution requesting that the flag be removed.

While this is an incredible step, this vote is only a scratch on the surface. The work has only just begun and it is time to go further.

At Ole Miss, the Flagship University of this state, we are called upon to lead. We arrive knowing that success and achievement are two of the cornerstones of this University. It is our duty as young leaders to be the first to highlight not only African American achievement in athletics but academics as well.

There was a time where we were not wanted at this University. To some that may have been fifty years ago, to others that may have been just a few years ago, and for me it was just last week.

Following the faculty senate vote to remove the flag, protesters rallied. The faculty senate meeting—which lasted no longer than twenty minutes and garnered no discussion—was only one vote short of being unanimous.

There was a time where we were not wanted at this University. To some that may have been fifty years ago, to others that may have been just a few years ago, and for me it was just last week.

I was on my way to the library but was turned around by campus police and told that I could not enter because the protesters were causing a disturbance. When I got to a friend’s residence hall to study, my GROUPME app was flooded with messages warning students to stay safe.

On my walk I could make out their signs, ‘Keep the Flag’, ‘Black Lives Don’t Matter’ and ‘If Diversity Wins, We All Lose’. This was not a surprise to me, and to be honest I am glad that they were out there. Their declaration proved true the chant that came from our mouths on Friday: “Your Heritage is Hate.”

 Protestors rallied on campus at Ole Miss to protest the vote to remove the confederate flag from campus, holding signs read, ‘Keep the Flag’, ‘Black Lives Don’t Matter’ and ‘If Diversity Wins, We All Lose’. Ann-Marie Herod

While it also proved that this flag is a symbol of Mississippi’s defiance to progress, my hope is that it speeds up the process and that the administration makes the right decision.

Two weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon, the NAACP held a peaceful rally on our campus circle to rally student support. Shortly after, as students started to disperse, members of an organization known as the Mississippi League of the South marched to the circle, and then to Fulton Chapel and led a counter protest to let African American students know that black lives do not matter.

RELATED: Ole Miss Removes State Flag From Campus After Backlash

They let us know that we don’t belong here by shouting hateful words at us: “Black Lives Don’t Matter”, “We shoulda kept segregation”, “We’re racist and proud of it”, and “My people bringing y’all to this country was the best thing to ever happen to y’all”.

I am currently taking a civil rights history class and hearing those words really put a few things in perspective for me. One has to wonder why still in 2015 people can spew such hate from their mouths.

After the initial vote Tuesday, in the wee hours of the morning students hid behind a social media platform known as YIK YAK, which allows the user complete anonymity to proclaim things like ‘race doesn’t matter’, that this is ‘a state issue’ and even questioning the existence of the Black Student Union—who just last week hosted their first “I AM BSU WEEK” to celebrate African American students on this campus.

Whenever the wind blows and the state flag flies boldly in the center of campus, it reminds me know that at one point I was not wanted here. And it represents the fact that I may never belong.

Four years ago I decided to seize every opportunity I could and make the most of my experience here, despite witnessing racist incidents ranging from comments made about President Obama, to the noose and Confederate battle flag found tied around the statue of James Meredith, our university’s first black student to integrate this institution. Why would I give up, knowing that it is because him I am able to make a difference in this university community?

It makes my job ten times harder when I have to convince minority students to see beyond the confederate flags that are literally in every tent during home games.

These confederate symbols do not promote inclusion on this campus.

As a native of Oxford, I’ve lived here all my life. For generations, my family has lived in the community and served in many different capacities in ministry and education.

Why would I give up knowing that my grandfather lost his job because he supported James Meredith? Why would I give up knowing that my grandfather, my grandmother, and their parents and my aunts and uncles could not enroll in the university — instead they had to attend schools such as Jackson State and Rust College.

My grandfather, Reverend Arthur Herod Sr., was a leader during the Civil Rights Movement and helped get African Americans registered to vote. I owe him the courtesy to continue to fight for what’s right.

 The Mississippi State flag flies April 17, 2001 in Pascagoula, MS. William Colgin / Getty Images file

I have made great friends here and even studied abroad. But as an ambassador for the university, every week I face the challenge of convincing students why they should come to Ole Miss.

It makes my job ten times harder when I have to convince minority students to see beyond the confederate flags that are literally in every tent during home games. To see beyond the confederate statue in tribute to the University Grays who fought in the Civil War. To see the brighter side to this university which is home to some of the nation’s top academic programs.

Removing the flag will not hurt this institution. On the contrary, after each controversial decision the University has had to make over the years, the enrollment has steadily increased because people see that the University is trying to move forward.

It’s time to highlight the achievement of minority students here on campus, because we are Ole Miss too. The University openly acknowledges its past and claims to be more than what history has written it to be, so the resolution rightly calls for the University to remove the flag.

I have faith that the University will join the ranks of the three other public institutions in the state — Jackson State University, Alcorn State University, and Mississippi Valley University — which have opted not fly the flag, and as the flagship university, be the first predominantly white institution to do so.

But more than this, I have hope that one day too, the symbols of hate can be removed from so many hearts.

Ann-Marie Herod is a native of Abbeville, Mississippi. She is a Senior at Ole Miss, majoring in Broadcast Journalism and African American Studies.

 Hundreds gathered outside the Mississippi state capitol for a change in the state flag. Members of the group "Flag for All Mississippians" marched with signs to support an initiative to remove the confederate battle emblem from the state's flag on Sunday Oct. 11, 2015. Supporters of the confederate flag were also present to counter what they call "negative attacks." WLBT