Maybe I should have said something every time I saw the stars and bars flapping behind the two-ton pickup trucks my friends drove during my time at Hays High.
Perhaps that might have been the right time to speak up and express my concern with an image whose history was interwoven by hate, malice and cruelty.
In a perfect world, I would have approached them and tried to make them understand that flag symbolized not only a lost cause, but treason of the highest order against our land.
But the truth is none of that happened. There was no amazing Hollywood-style outburst or protest from me fighting to diminish support for something that continues to be a rallying cry for racists, bigots and white supremacists.
No, the sad truth is that I just didn’t understand. I just didn’t get it. I fell into the “pride, not prejudice” trap some of us were fed to believe, and worse, accepted.
That will forever bring me great shame.
It’s that shame that drives me, a 2005 Hays High graduate, to advocate for Hays CISD to begin the process of looking at alternative mascots for the district’s first high school campus.
Understandably, such a move will generate much consternation and frustration among those who feel losing the Rebel name will forever change the school. Many will also claim the move could “whitewash” history (It won’t. Read a history textbook if you’re so inclined to find references to the Confederacy.)
But is that a bad thing?
Because for decades, the only fact people knew of the Hays Rebels was how the school embraced symbols synonymous with slavery and oppression, primarily toward those in the black community.
Yes, in recent years we’ve seen the removal of the flag as a symbol, “Dixie” as the fight song and other elements that were associated with the Confederacy. Hays CISD has also done its best to dissociate the Rebel mascot from its Confederate connections by inferring the word itself has many different meanings.
And, to an extent, that is true. Our country was founded by rebels who stood up to Great Britain and created our nation. Some of our world’s most enduring fictional characters, ranging from Star Wars to the Avengers, are themselves rebels in a way.
However, Hays High’s Rebel mascot is none of those things.
Because the Hays Rebels will always be those Hays Rebels. The “south shall rise again” Rebels. The same Hays Rebels whose fan base once countered a black San Marcos city leader’s call for the school to remove the stars and bars by waving enough of them around to mirror a Klan rally during a football game.
Who are we as a society to urge our community to rally behind a high school mascot that many still associate with hate, while also pushing for our children to be tolerant and accepting of others?
As Hays CISD grows and becomes more diverse, the district’s sordid symbols of the past will continue to catch up to it. Why not start fresh? Why not begin a new chapter in our district’s timeline?
If you’re still unable to shake the Rebel name, if you’re not sold that it should be replaced, perhaps you should reread last week’s story on the amount of racism Hays High alumnus Rashaad O’Neal had to endure during his high school years.
No one should ever have to go through that again.Because it’s time, Hays CISD. It’s time to change.