To the editor:

In light of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, it’s time as white people to reflect on our own personal and collective beliefs and grow and change as needed.

To that point, I’d like to start a dialogue about the use of The Rebels as the mascot for our very own Southwestern Jefferson County Consolidated Schools.

Briefly some info on me: I’m 41, originally from Hanover, the daughter of Tom and Sue Patterson, and attended Southwestern through the fourth grade before attending various schools throughout Indiana. After graduating from IU in 2001 with a degree in sociology, I moved to New Orleans to teach. I taught first, second and fourth grades at various schools, including at the William J. Frantz building that was integrated by Ruby Bridges in 1960 with the escort of U.S. Marshals. I eventually worked my way up to dean of students and principal before moving back to Indiana in July 2018, where I began work for a foster care agency and became a foster parent myself.

This issue has been on my mind for years, giving me lots of time to reflect upon why The Rebels should not be used as a mascot at any level of school, in any area of the country. The Rebels was the name of the Confederate Army during the Civil War, a war fought between the North and the South over slavery. The Rebel flag used the colors red and navy, and the character of Colonel Reb was designed in 1936 and used originally by Ole Miss.

From discussions I’ve had it seems that the choice by the student body of the newly consolidated Southwestern Jefferson County School’s first graduating class (’61 I believe) was to choose The Rebels mascot based on the James Dean (Hoosier native) character in Rebel Without A Cause. The colors were a combination of the former Saluda and Hanover schools’ colors. It’s unclear to me exactly when the switch to the Colonel Reb and association with the Confederate Flag began, however I know that my nephew’s basketball team uses the Colonel Reb mascot on their sweatshirts.

Whatever the original intent behind the choice of mascots, the name and the use of the Colonel Reb and Confederate Flag imagery is at the very least uneducated, and worst, racist.

Indiana fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War. Madison was an important hub of the Underground Railroad. Those are things to be proud of here in Jefferson County. So it doesn’t make sense to me why we would associate with the South and the Confederacy. I assure you we are not Southern.

Additionally, the Confederate Flag and Colonel Reb character are racist symbols. They were used by the Confederate Army who was fighting for the right of one group of human beings to OWN another group of human beings.

It is a matter of white privilege to get upset and defend the use of these symbols when our black friends, family members, and neighbors are still, even in 2020 after years and years of protest and fight for change, not afforded the same considerations as we as white people are. It is the very least we can do to be supportive.

Before you dismiss me as just some crazy liberal (which I am, by the way), just know that I am not alone in thinking that it’s time for Southwestern to get on the right side of history and change their mascot. I’ve been supported by family members, Southwestern alumni from 1997 (what would have been my graduating class if I’d gone to high school here) and 1968 (my dad’s graduating class), and from friends both local and far away.

I know it’s uncomfortable to have to admit something we’ve done or believe in for years and years without a second thought is racist. It doesn’t mean we are bad people. I don’t think the majority of people who live in Jefferson County or went to Southwestern are actively racist. But if you’re not anti-racist and a white ally to our black and brown friends, you need to reassess.

Please take a minute to reach out to me either on Facebook or via email (juapatte@gmail.com) with support or disagreement. My only request is that you keep it civil, and if you can’t resort from name calling, don’t engage. I’m a person, just like you, trying to find my place in this world. I have a family and friends who support me and don’t want to see my good name dragged through the mud.

With much respect,

Julie Patterson