Remove the Rebel as Freeman High School's Mascot
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In light of recent events, I feel now more than ever that a change needs to be made. Freeman was founded in 1954, the year that desegregation of schools began in Virginia. One third of our school's population identifies as a minority. The Rebel no longer represents the school we are, and in many ways never did.
While many Freeman students are used to the mascot and see nothing wrong with it, others see a legacy of hate that does not line up with the diverse and accepting school we are. The mascot was made as a tribute to the Confederacy. When the school was founded, Dixie was the fight song, the mascot was a Confederate soldier called Rebel Man, and the Confederate flag was even flown frequently at games. While most of these racist displays have been removed, the Rebel name is alive and well.
I am a current student in the Leadership Center at Freeman, but I almost went to a different school because of the strong negative associations towards the Rebel name. I am certain that for each of those students like me who discovered how wonderful this school is by giving it a chance, there are those who missed that opportunity because they were repelled by the name. I face a strange dichotomy that I know many students face— I could not have more pride in being a Freeman student, but I feel ashamed every time I tell someone I am a Rebel.
The original Rebel Man logo still appears on some sports gear with the defense that sports gear is funded by boosters, not the school directly. The school admits that Rebel Man is offensive, yet some of our school sports teams proudly wear his image. These teams are drawn to the Rebel Man not with the desire to be racist or offensive, but simply because they so strongly desire a mascot. If the name could be changed from the Rebels then we could finally show our pride for our school without also giving credence to a racist symbol of the past. Imagine being able to cheer as a mascot took the field at games. A mascot that represents the entire student population with no racist imagery attached.
In the past, movements to change the name have been met with resistance, claiming that the Rebels isn't an offensive name. However, I hope that with all that has happened these past weeks in our own state, that we can see which side of history we would like to be on. For all who claim that the name is an honor to state history, I say we should instead focus on making our own history. Please sign this petition to remove the Rebel name from Douglas Southall Freeman High School.
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