by David Abdel
$800,00. That is the potential cost of fixing a mistake decades old. Now, there are a number of avenues to travel down regarding the issue of re-branding Hays High School. You could argue that the cost is too great and the money could be better spent. You could argue that during a pandemic attention should be spent on other issues. What cannot, and should not be argued is whether or not the Rebel nickname needs to be changed. It does.
Originally “Colonel Jack” proudly carried two pistols while sporting the Confederate flag on his belt buckle. As Hays County entered the new millennium, the debate raged over whether this was still acceptable. A compromise was reached, the rebel could stay but the flag and guns needed to go. Why it took 50 years to reach that conclusion defies both logic and reason, but what it doesn’t do is surprise me. Now, it is worth noting that it took another decade for the school district to ban the Confederate flag in all aspects. That’s right, it took until the second decade of this millennium, almost 150 years after the end of the Civil War, for Hays to unequivocally ban the flag of a failed, treasonous separatist movement. It doesn’t matter if you’re late to the party as long as you show up right? Well, the battle rages yet again as many are still fighting to preserve “Colonel Jack” as the school finally moves on to a new mascot.
My first thought, as a Social Studies teacher, is to provide a great lesson that will help people understand how the mascot conveys a hurtful message. Honestly, I think it would fall on deaf ears. If it took 50 years to get people to do away with the stars and bars, there is no convincing folks that the rebel mascot is similarly hurtful. Frustratingly so, there’s simply a contingency of folks that refuse to forego the “pride” associated with this imagery and ideology. With the events of the last few years, and even this last week, I begrudgingly admit that “rebel pride never dies.” I mean, even the Kyle mayor said that in a text exchange earlier last year.
The arguments I’ve seen have a few familiar narratives. One being that it’s “tradition.” Since generations prior went to Hays High known as the Rebels, it’s somehow a disservice to future generations to not be called such. I don’t understand why one would find any sense of worthwhile identity from their high school mascot. Honestly, mine were the Rams and I’ve probably not spent more than ten minutes of my life reflecting on what it means to be a Dickinson Ram. If you truly believe who you are is tied to your high school mascot, you’ve got to be unbelievably unfulfilled. You can carry on family tradition and become a proud alumnus simply by attending and graduating from the school.
Other arguments made against the change is that the mascot is not offensive or racist, and the change is the product of sensitive millennial “snowflakes”. (side note: it’s snowing as I write this!) This argument fails to carry water because the people who find references to the Confederacy racist or offensive generally stem from all different political backgrounds, generations, ethnicities or ideologies. The vast majority of Americans believe the Confederacy was a black mark in our history, and that the members were standing up for abhorrent practices and were committing treason. These are universal negatives, but yet somehow we still have people that equate it with “southern pride”. Supporting anything Confederate related is nothing to be proud of. If you’re so proud of it, feel free to proudly display the flag on your house, but leave the public school out of it.
At the end of the day, the cost is great. The cost is simply the cost of inaction. Had this been rectified much earlier, or had ”Colonel Jack” never been adopted at all, this fiscal expenditure could have been mitigated. We find ourselves paying for the sins of the past, and the greater they were the greater the debt we owe. Maybe we should use this time to look around and examine the sins of today and what the cost will be tomorrow.