Reactions to a possible change in Hays’ mascot

Even though it’s the students who will decide if Hays High School needs to replace its Rebel mascot, their parents have opinions on the subject.

Comments in favor of keeping the mascot and changing it were expressed on the Hays Free Press Facebook page; however, three parents who spoke directly to the newspaper were all in favor of moving ahead with a different image for Hays High School.

Though Hays CISD officials have tried to liken the Rebel of today with more of a generic freedom fighter, “It has always been the Confederate soldier,” said Jennifer Price, whose African American daughters will be sophomores at Hays High School in the fall. “I know some people feel strongly we’re trying to change history but that’s not what it is. You can find history in a book, in a class. I don’t feel like our children should have to continue to glorify the Confederate soldier when the symbolism is so negative against the African American community.”

Emily Strobel agreed, likening keeping the mascot to a “continual fight to glorify” what we should actually be ashamed of “for extending the systemic oppression of black people.”

She noted that the mascot didn’t become the Rebel until 1968 “right in the middle of the Civil Rights era” and was “a direct response to that movement, saying ‘We are racist.’ That’s not where we are now, and we need to focus on the future.”

The mascot issue is just one facet of the larger story “of the oppression of an entire race of people,” Strobel said. “It’s something that Americans need to look in the face and do all that we can to heal.” For 400 years, she noted, blacks worked to enrich white society. “We‘ve been stepping on their necks for that long. To say there’s no oppression anymore is laughable. We have to give (black Americans) the same chance of experiencing happiness and success as white Americans … To force black children to go to a school that celebrates their oppression is just wrong. It hurts my heart to think about it. “

Strobel is also for renaming Hays High School. “Having to go to a school named after someone in favor of their enslavement is horrific to even think about.”

Kevin Foley said it’s time to change the mascot and the name of Hays High School, since the district now has four high schools, and will within a matter of years have five. “We need to rebrand Hays from the ground up. Let the student body take a mascot more representative of our community today. Let the student body take a nickname more representative.”

Foley’s two children graduated from Hays High School within the past five years and he believes now is the time to take action. “I don’t think it needs to be changed to reflect current events. It needs to be changed to reflect the community we live in — it’s no longer the same.”

Both Price and Foley mentioned that the implicit racism in the Rebel mascot often surfaced during sporting events.

“Back in the day there was a point where San Marcos High School refused to play us when we were in the same district because of the Confederate flag,” Foley said. “People don’t realize it, but you see what you want to see. It’s easy to see nothing when it’s not happening to you or your children. It’s a different story to those it is happening to.”

Price, whose daughter played basketball, said she’s heard opposing teams actually call the Hays students racist. “It’s gotten really heated at some of the games to the point that games had to be stopped and fans escorted out … all the other schools around us know exactly what the Rebel is – a symbol for racism. Why are we the last to know, why don’t we see it ourselves? It’s hard for the girls, they don’t want to not have school pride,” but neither do they want to participate in “Go, Rebels, go” chants. “They don’t want to say those things.”

Though they wouldn’t speak publicly, some responses on Facebook included, “I’m against the change, they already ‘changed’ it once;” “There are bigger problems to worry about;” Enough for changing this community’s history … some of the families have had Hays graduates since the school opened;” and “The mascot is fine. It’s people who need to change.”

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