To the editor:

Up to now I have been silent on all the recent happenings around Black Lives Matter and the institutional racism in our country, not knowing what to say. But now, after listening and reading for days and seeing Ann’s post, I want and have to respond. I have been waiting to see if this discussion would come up from my little hometown in Southern Indiana and thank goodness it has, and frankly, and to the point, I hope this Rebel mascot and Confederate flag are removed from our school ... immediately. It is time. It is way past time. The sad part about all of this is none of us were taught about what this flag and mascot really meant. Remember chanting during boys basketball games “the South will rise again!?” And this next memory is so hard to share. I personally am mortified. Fellow alumni, do you remember boy’s basketball regional at Seymour High School in winter of 1974? We had finally won our sectional after decades of trying and so we moved on in the statewide tournament. Now, do you remember the Southwestern High School administration and teachers inviting any student (there were only 420 of us in the whole school!) to meet in our gym during sixth period to practice and become this gigantic cheer block, giving up curricular time to become a pep club? Do you also remember that the math department worked to graph out on paper in card club style, (only we would be using red, white and blue capes) who would wear what color to create the Confederate flag with home economics making the 250 red, white and blue capes and matching mittens? But here is the saddest memory. Fast forward after a week of practice we all got on buses and went to Seymour to a 5000-seat gym. It truly felt like the movie “Hoosiers.” This little Cinderella team and hometown crowd came into the huge gym. We took our seats on the bleachers and they passed out the capes, mittens and hats just like we had practiced all week and then on cue, 250 students put them on and suddenly ... a gigantic Confederate flag appears in front of everyone in the gym ... 250 members strong from a public high school in Southern Indiana. My heart is racing right now and it is not out of excitement. It is out of shame and regret. Those of us in that cheer block had no idea what we had just done. We just thought we were supporting our basketball team. There had to be black people and hopefully at that time, other people of social conscious in the gym that night and I cannot imagine their reaction to this blatant, yet ignorant, act of racism. Last year I shared this memory with my California high school students. They were silent because they were so shocked and appalled and respectfully did not want to hurt my feelings or embarrass me. I asked for their responses and opinions and finally the questions and opinions came at me like bullets.

They asked me why did we do this ... didn’t we know any better, how could you? I told them, we didn’t know any better, but I told them, that was no excuse. Even though we were just having school spirit, we should have known ... we should have known. Now of course we know better. Ann, you are right. This mascot and flag are offensive, more than offensive. They are unconscionable. They represent so much oppression and white power. Southwestern High School I urge you — no I BEG you — to remove these offensive symbols from our school immediately. You must do the right thing for the sake of all alumni, current and future students. Do it now. Everyone please share this. This story needs to be told.

Michael Hayden

Southwestern Class of 1975

2014 California Teacher of the Year

Director of Choirs, Mira Costa High School