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30 for 30: Ghosts of Ole Miss

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This movie is an identity piece, on what it means to be a white Southerner.  This iteration specifically focuses on the year of 1962, when the University of Mississippi football team went undefeated, but more importantly, when it was forced to integrate.

I didn't know much about the integration story of Ole Miss. It was vaguely familiar, but it was always overshadowed in my mind by the earlier, though less violent, school integration in Little Rock.  For that reason alone, I'm glad I watched this movie.

The chronicle of the history is mostly well done.  

The story is written by and narrated by Wright Thompson, a sportswriter from Mississippi.  The main theme of the movie is Thompson confronting Mississippi's ugly past, and trying to find a line between taking pride in his heritage and not being racist.  There's struggle with accountability, such as whether we should try to hold those responsible for the riots accountable (yes, obviously), and how a culture scarred by prior insensitive behavior should move on.

Though it's clearly thought out, it comes across as mealy-mouthed.  Thompson grasps that the confederate flag is offensive, for instance, and doesn't make too much of a fuss about the loss of the Colonel Reb mascot, but he is less certain about the song Dixie.  This is classic Southern want-your-cake-and-eat-it-too attitude, the same stuff that leads to the offensive lost cause Civil War ideology.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The Confederacy was racist.  Economically, the South was dependent on slave labor, and was willing to come to arms rather than give up that system.  The states rights argument is very clearly flawed, as the Constitution of the Confederacy was identical to that of the Union, but for one clause that explicitly allowed slavery.  That, folks, is a one-issue war, about the subjugation of blacks by whites.

By extension, any symbol that is primarily a symbol of the Confederacy is racist.  That this isn't accepted is shameful.  Our culture understands that the hateful symbols of, say, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are offensive, but the symbols of the Civil War South are allowed to remain, in the name of some sort of back-asswards tolerance.

The movie is well-made, and there's clearly thought here, but I just can't excuse what is still a flawed premise: That there's value in the cultural heritage and symbolism of the Confederate States of America.

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