In the summer of 2015, I spoke with a reporter from the Oregonian to discuss the Rebel mascot. As student body president at the time, I felt that it was my job to try and convince this person and their readership that the school I went to was not a place which espoused hate, and that the mascot was in not meant to embody the Confederacy, nor innumerable instances of racial violence which are carried out in its name. Soon after, I came to understand that attempting to save face for the school by defending a symbol so closely tied to the suffering of others had been the wrong course of action.
Since then I’ve been granted the opportunity to receive a higher education and travel the country. Along the way I’ve gained a wider context for what the rebels, and the Confederacy which it alluded to, means to people living in places where the echoes of the Civil War are louder than they are in Albany. By choosing and making excuses for a symbol of oppression we presented our school and our wider community as one of ignorance, with eyes fixed firmly on the past. Albany has a bounty of new opportunities at hand which offer us a chance at a prosperous future. We undermine these prospects by presenting ourselves as a community stuck in its ways.
So, to those who choose to express displeasure for the removal of the mascot, I respect your right to do so. However, I would invite you to do as I did: turn toward the future, and grow up.
Eugene (April 25)