Change BU Mascot's Racist Name
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As Boston University's Admissions Office tweeted in 2016, "Our mascot is named Rhett because no one loves Scarlet more than Rhett."* According to BU's official website, BU Today, the name Rhett, paired with BU's school color, scarlet, is an allusion to the character of Rhett Butler, along with his love interest, Scarlet O'Hara, in Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind and the 1939 motion picture of the same name.
In Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler is a Confederate sympathizer who later aids and abets the violence of a gang that is a stand-in for the early Ku Klux Klan. All the while, he pursues a turbulent and abusive relationship with Scarlet O'Hara, herself a slave owner who is depicted physically and verbally abusing her slaves. As an ode to white supremacy and the slave-owning South, Gone with the Wind portrays these characters and their open racism as part of a genteel Southern culture and completely fails to contextualize the racism and white supremacy depicted.** Due to these themes, HBO Max removed GWTW from its streaming service in June 2020, and returned it to streaming with a video introduction and panel discussion explaining the historical context of the film.*
Rhett the Terrier is a visible part of BU's branding. He shows up to sports events in a personalized jersey. He has his own Facebook page with over a thousand followers and even his own Twitter, @RhettBU. Statues of him dot BU's campus and are decorated by student groups to show school pride. He is the namesake of Rhett's Diner in the student union. The name is a problematic allusion to a racist character in a racist book and film and turns BU's otherwise benign school color, scarlet, into another inappropriate reference itself. As a school that prides itself on the legacy of its most famous alum, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., BU should change its mascot's name and stop making light of references to Rhett Butler, Scarlet O'Hara, and Gone with the Wind.
Sign this petition to encourage the President and Board of Trustees of Boston University to rename the terrier! #RenameTheTerrier
JULY 1, 2020 UPDATE: One July 1, 2020, President Robert A. Brown announced in emails to BU students and alumni that the university would convene "a committee to consider the question of whether the 'Rhett' nickname should be retired." Brown acknowledged that the "mascot’s nickname, 'Rhett,' pays tribute to a fictional character associated with the Confederacy, slavery, and sexual assault." Brown conceded that "the fact is that the movie’s portrayal of the American Civil War, postwar reconstruction, and slavery is offensive" and "at odds with our own tradition," citing BU's founding by abolitionists (emphasis added). While he called the debate over the name "reasonable," Brown did not commit changing the mascot's name. Instead, the committee will consider whether the name should be retired and will issue a recommendation on that question by mid-October. Brown has left open the possibility that the university could decide to maintain the name Rhett. In light of Brown's own admissions about the offensive nature of Gone with the Wind and Rhett Butler's negative associations, this result would be untenable and unacceptable. Please add your signature to this petition and share widely to encourage that the committee recommend that the mascot's name be changed and that BU make a firm commitment to do so!
*The Tweet was last documented on June 11, 2020. As of July 1, 2020, the date of President Brown's announcement, the Tweet had been taken down.
**This analysis is informed by an excellent blog post by Rafi D'Angelo, Gone with the Wind, the Confederacy, and preserving art.
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