I graduated from RHS in 1970 and played in the band through spring, 1969. However, I didn’t take band my senior year. I couldn’t play Dixie one more time. I stopped going to football games after I graduated. It wasn’t because there weren’t great teams and marvelous athletes. I stopped because I couldn’t stand to watch the celebration of those talents with Dixie, a tune and song known to be associated with racists and recently with white supremacists.
A few years ago I talked with one of my black classmates and asked if the fight song bothered him. Yes, it did, and he was a top athlete. Recently, I attended a multi-class reunion and I asked others if the fight song bothered them. Yes, it did and it still does. Fifty years later this fight song haunts some alumni.
A few weeks ago I published a blog and asked those who were haunted by Dixie to follow me to a page to discuss what we could do for the current students of RISD. Would current students be haunted by the failure of the fight song to include every student? The response to my invitation overwhelmed me and apparently has overwhelmed many in the community.
My intention was to gather enough names and support to approach the RISD School Board in January, after football season. However, I understand this has been a divisive issue for many. I refuse to take responsibility for that division. It was there fifty years ago and remains today.
There have been previous requests to eliminate Dixie: Ms. Lottie Nell Richardson asked the Board to get rid of it in 1961. Her fourth grade students at Barefield signed the letter. They never received a response. In 2011 Mr. John Toliver wrote a letter to the editor asking that Dixie be eliminated, giving very explicit reasons. His grandchildren attended RISD and he didn’t want them to be subjected to the symbol of racism. A few years ago Mr. Charles Lewis approached the school board and asked that Dixie be banned from RISD functions. Only one board member voted in favor. There are probably others.
I’m speaking now for over 200 alumni who want Dixie to be eliminated from all RISD functions. It’s true that most of us don’t currently live in Refugio, and we’re asked what gives us the right. Because Dixie followed us and haunted us, we have the right. Because our friends were hurt, we have the right. Because children in RISD are still being subjected to it and its’ racist symbolism, we have the right. Because we’re older now and can speak up, we have the right.
As a group, we’ve asked the board to vote on eliminating Dixie at their next meeting, Nov. 25. They need to vote to uphold the mission and core values of the RISD. It is their sworn duty to do so and serve every student.
Phyllis Moore, Galveston