Miss the fight song but not Rebel chant

By Charles M. Dunagin
McComb Enterprise-Journal
Thursday, November 19, 2009

McCOMB — I have attended all the Ole Miss home football games this fall, having purchased season tickets along with paying a tariff to keep them where they are.

Like a number of other fans around me, I wasn’t even aware of the controversy over “the South will rise again” chant until it was reported in the news media.

Now I am among those who regret that one of my favorite tunes, “From Dixie With Love,” is no longer played by the Ole Miss band before kickoffs and at the end of home games.

Like I said, I couldn’t even make out what the kids in the student section were yelling until I started paying close attention. My wife says I’m getting hard of hearing, and I probably am, but she hadn’t heard the chant either, and several other fans I’ve talked to say the same thing.

The chant was being raised from the student section in the south end zone after the band’s excellent version of “From Dixie With Love,” which is a melding of the Confederate battle song “Dixie” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” said to have been used as an anthem by Union troops during the Civil War.

For years the Ole Miss band repeatedly played “Dixie” without the “From Love” part, but the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was added some time ago, as university leaders sought to shed vestiges of Ole Miss’ segregationist past.

Dan Jones, the new chancellor at Ole Miss, along with others, were of the opinion that “the South will rise again” chant was racially insensitive, given the old South’s position on slavery and segregation, and not in keeping with the image the university’s leaders now try to project.

So, when Jones asked the kids to stop it, I started paying closer attention. I did hear it at the Arkansas game, although I wouldn’t have had it not been for the publicity.

When Jones said, before the Northern Arizona game, he would ask the band to stop playing “From Dixie With Love” if the chant didn’t stop, I tried to pay even closer attention. I didn’t hear the chant.

But Jones must have.

Before the kickoff of the Tennessee game, the band played “America” in place of “From Dixie With Love,” and I thought I heard a few boos from the student section, although I hope I was mistaken.

How can anyone boo “America,” especially these days when a lot of young people who probably would rather be at Ole Miss are in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for us?

I missed standing and cheering after hearing “From Dixie With Love,” but I stood for “America.”

And the regret of not hearing what has become a traditional pre-game and post-game song certainly was ameliorated by the football team’s magnificent win over Tennessee, making the Ole Miss Rebels bowl eligible for the second year in a row.

Which brings up another song.

Dexter McCluster, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound African-American with dreadlocks flowing from the back of his helmet, set three records that day with his remarkable athletic ability — a single-game Ole Miss individual rushing record and a combined rushing and receiving record, as well as becoming the player to gain the most rushing yards in a single game against Tennessee in that school’s storied football history.

On Monday, someone forwarded me a YouTube Christian rap song reportedly written by and featuring Dexter and his Christian testimony.

He was baptized at North Oxford Baptist Church about a month ago, and obviously isn’t bashful about sharing his faith.

Rap music isn’t exactly suited to my taste. Frankly, I’d rather hear “From Dixie With Love,” and I hope something will be worked out where the Ole Miss band will play it again, minus the chant.

But I like the message Dexter’s music conveys, and I like the way he plays football.

He’s been good for Ole Miss, and I suspect, given his conversion there, Oxford has been good for him.

So, God willing, I’ll be back at Ole Miss Saturday standing for “America” and cheering for Dexter McCluster and a number of other African-American athletes as they play LSU.

And I won’t miss at all a chant about the South rising again, whatever that means.

Copyright © 2009 Commonwealth Publishing, Inc.

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