The Georgia NAACP wants one southern Georgia high to remove the nickname “Rebels” from its teams, to the dismay of many residents.
The biggest concern about Effingham County High School’s nickname stems from the idea that it is connected with the Confederacy during the Civil War. State NAACP President Francys Johnson released a statement requesting that the school located near Savannah remove any other symbols that emerged from that era, and are deemed racially offensive by some people.
“It’s time for the Confederate flag and the glorification of rebel culture that fought to maintain slavery and Jim Crow as an economic and social order to surrender. If we want closure on a 150-year-old chapter in American history, we must unite under the American flag as true patriots,” said Johnson, who suggested the school rename its teams “Patriots.”
In his statement, Johnson also explained that he does not believe every American who has displayed the Confederate flag endorses slavery as an economic and social order, treason as a solution, and bigotry as a value system. However, he also explained that the symbolism has essentially become synonymous with “America’s original sin.” Johnson called on those who believe the flag represents “something honorable” to speak up and condemn the use of it and related symbols by individuals he describes as traitors, Nazis, the Klan, and bigots.
“It was the primary symbol of reign of domestic terrorism during Jim Crow that was the impetus for the birth of the NAACP,” said Johnson. “The truth is more folks were lynched under the Confederate flag than died under the United State flag on September 11th.”
Some local area residents disagree. They claim the nickname and related symbols reflect pride in their Southern heritage; therefore, they should not be considered racist. More than 7,000 supporters have signed an online petition at Change.org to keep the nickname.
The recent slaying of nine blacks attending bible study at their church in Charleston, S.C. by 21-year old Dylann Roof has prompted civil rights leaders and others to push to remove symbols of the Confederacy from government properties and schools. Photos of Roof holding a Confederate flag surfaced following the tragic incident. There are also witness accounts that allege Roof said he wanted to kill black people.
At a recent school board meeting, both sides debated the matter. It is expected that board members will make a decision in the near future in response to the arguments.
To read Georgia NAACP President Francys Johnson’s full statement, visit www.NAACPGA.org.