Mississippi Yearning: Ole Miss ‘Race Riots’
Some in the South need to let go of its past.

On the campus of Ole Miss, November 6, 2012


Lee Habeeb

It was a non-event that turned into a national one. A few students at Ole Miss, not happy with the election results on November 6, went outside and blew off some steam. One burned a paper Obama/Biden sign. Some said racial slurs were shouted. Others denied it. They surely acted poorly. It didn’t matter.

A tweeted photo of that burning sign set off rumors of a riot. One tweet prompted another, and a few hundred kids soon came out of their dorms to find no riot at all. Just some inebriated college kids acting up late at night, using foul language. Two were arrested for being drunk in public.

Not exactly national news, drunk kids acting like idiots. And on a college campus no less!

Not unless it’s the school in a state like Mississippi or Alabama or South Carolina. States that will forever be the land of racists and bigots in the minds of our nation’s image makers in New York and LA.

The media bloodhounds — CBS, ABC, the Huffington Post, and others — pounced. The Daily Beast ran this headline; “Anti-Obama riot at Ole Miss.” Here’s how they covered this non-story:

This wasn’t the America the president spoke about in his speechlast night. A 400-person election protest at the University of Mississippi featured some rioters yelling racial epithets.

That’s right. They called the kids rioters!

The only thing missing from this hyperbolic fake story were white hoods and a burning cross.

Yes, those kids behaved dreadfully. But when George Bush beat John Kerry in 2004, are we to believe that not a single student did anything just as stupid in Madison, Wis., or Berkeley, Calif.? Was there not a single student who burned a Bush/Cheney sign, called Bush a f***ing Nazi, or fired off an anti-Christian slur?

We’ll never know, because that’s not news to the mainstream media. That’s kids being kids.

Why the double standard? Because the media is perfectly comfortable perpetuating the last socially acceptable form of bigotry in America – regional bigotry. I know a lot about it. I live in Oxford, Miss., but I wasn’t born there. I spent the first thirty years of my life in New Jersey. But after a decade of traveling around America, I could think of no better place to raise a family than the town Faulkner called home. Oxford is that special.

When I told my friends up north about my move, they thought I’d lost my mind. Each time I returned north to visit, I tried my best to lighten things up with jokes. I assured them we have electricity, running water, cable TV, and even dentists down here. When I showed them pictures of my home, and told them how much it cost, and what my property-tax bill was, they were jealous. When I told them I live in a great neighborhood with some great people, and that Oxford has some fine places to eat and listen to bands, they believed me.