Perspectives: Dixie State College, resisting the tyranny of the minority

Tyranny ahead? Dixie State College of Utah name change
Image by Brett Barrett, St. George News

OPINION – In a 60 Minutes interview, newsman Mike Wallace once asked actor Morgan Freeman how to eradicate racism, Freeman’s answer was perfect, “Stop talking about it.” That’s timely advice.

The individuals seeking to sanitize the allegedly racist name and history of Dixie State College are no doubt sincere. But it is absolutely possible to be sincerely wrong.

Portraying the school’s current name as a purported celebration of a “dark part of U.S. history” requires the deliberate donning of ideological blinders. But the implication that the true heritage of Utah’s Dixie is one of thinly veiled intolerance is what exposes their crusade as a politically correct solution shopping for a problem.

When no offense has been proffered but plenty has been taken, whose fault is that? Perhaps those claiming to be so offended by the name Dixie have been actively looking for reasons to be offended. Revisionist history and a handful of sophomoric yearbook photos from 50 years ago are flimsy evidence of ongoing institutional intolerance.

Are we to believe that a school that has rapidly expanded from junior college status to the threshold of university status is simply being held back by what others think of it? Dixie seems to have done fine on its own merits. Trying to win the approval of self-appointed sensitivity experts is not only unnecessary; it’s a game that cannot be won.

Racism and bigotry have long been the word weapons of choice for those seeking to intimidate as opposed to righting actual quantifiable wrongs. The diabolical beauty of such accusations is that they almost never refer to specific overt acts. The accusers will often hide behind the shield of their alleged victim status, requiring the accused to “prove” they’re not in the wrong—a logical impossibility.

This is a favored tactic of the professionally offended who deliberately provoke conflict in the name of tolerance to draw attention to them and their pet causes. In our day, the mere accusation of bigotry amounts to ironclad evidence of guilt in the minds of the unthinking.

Seasoned activists fully understand that appealing to dignity and quiet diplomacy to correct an actual wrong won’t create the kind of buzz that allows them to self-aggrandize before the cameras. They crusade against perceived cultural insensitivity with the priggish self-assurance that they could never be guilty of it themselves.

Politically correct thought requires that we ignore reality. In the case of Dixie State College, we must pretend that the Antebellum South never existed, or that if it did, it was the embodiment of evil. Only the sanitized, currently approved version of U.S. history can be mentioned.

There can be no acknowledgement of any factor other than slavery being among the causes of the War Between the States. We are forbidden from recognizing that, for most of its history, the KKK’s preferred flag was our beloved Stars and Stripes. We’re also not allowed to point out that racism flourishes today largely thanks to those who choose to fixate on race.

Though the push to cleanse the school of its unique heritage is couched in enhancing Dixie’s acceptability within academia, where will the purge end? Agreeing to politically correct demands too often merely triggers fresh demands for deeper concessions by the masses. Once the name is gone, what will be the next target?

Banning words is the first step to controlling what people think. Controlling what people think is about controlling others, period.

By what right should a tiny group of self-identified activists be able to enforce its ideological will upon a peaceful majority?

Thomas Jefferson spelled out the difference between equal rights and power when he noted, “ The will of the majority (is) the natural law of every society (and) is the only sure guardian of the rights of man. Perhaps even this may sometimes err. But its errors are honest, solitary and short-lived. Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable — the minority possess their equal rights which equal law must protect.”

The problem we see playing out at Dixie State College is that the minority is confusing equal rights with equal power. There is an important difference. The minority still enjoys the protections of its constitutional guarantee of free speech, with which it may seek to persuade the majority to its viewpoint. But equal rights are not the same thing as equal power.

This simply means that the minority is not the equivalent of the majority and therefore should not exert control over it. However, by claiming their near-sacred “victim” status, the minority wrongly presumes that they must never hear the word, “no.”

Cultural respect is a two-way street. Those who are most determined to demand change from everyone around them would be wise to remember this.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • Robb Willie December 6, 2012 at 11:36 am

    As a former resident of Utah’s Dixie, now living in the wonderful cold of Alaska, I enjoyed your well reasoned and well written take on the social tyranny of the perpectually offended.

  • Jack Baruth December 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

    O’Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’

    ‘No.’

    ‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’

    ‘In records. It is written down.’

    ‘In records. And –?’

    ‘In the mind. In human memories.’

    ‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’

    ‘But how can you stop people remembering things?’ cried Winston again momentarily forgetting the dial. ‘It is involuntary. It is outside oneself. How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!’

    O’Brien’s manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.

  • Roger December 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    As I commented on a previous opinion piece, I think the name change is more about the future than the past. Like it or not, words can have unintended meanings that conjure impressions and mental imagery. I don’t know of any words that are “banned” in the US, only words that have implications for people. There is nothing tyrannical about it. If you walk into a certain crowd and shout the Lord’s name in vain, some will be offended; if you walk down the street and shout the F-word, some might be offended. So what? You are free to do so. But there might be consequences for you, your reputation and what people think of you. Those consequences may affect your standing in the community, your future job potential, how other people treat you, among other things. I do believe that the historical use of the word Dixie in Southern Utah is not intended to be offensive. The name has served well in the past, where the college has been primarily a community college, peopled with students from the area who understand the heritage of the word Dixie in Southern Utah. The move to make the school a university, in my mind anyway, means the future, long-term development of a high level of scholarship, possibly scientific research, graduate programs, etc. – it’s an exciting time with great possibilities. Universities compete on the world stage for the best students and academics, and their reputation is carried on every diploma. So the question is, on a world stage do we want to keep the name “Dixie” and have an asterisk on every diploma/job application/graduate application/ad for professors explaining why we don’t think they should have any concerns about the name Dixie, or do we want to just put on our best suit, shave and haircut and let people know we are classy, intelligent and without a doubt worthy of consideration. As a retired white male libertarian from St. George with pioneer roots, I’m voting for the name change. I’m not bending to the will of the minority, rather I’m trying to see the big picture; my eyes are on the future, not the past. I’m hoping that this is one of those honest, solitary and short-lived errors that Jefferson spoke of.

    • Curtis December 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      Roger — absolutely the best argument for eliminating Dixie from the school’s name I have read.
      I don’t agree that including Dixie in the school’s name was an error at the time it was done, but you might be right that that time has passed — at least for the school but not for the area — and it is time to move on.
      Unfortunately the heels of the pro-Dixie people are deeply dug in and it will be difficult to convince them that the name should be changed for reasons other than political correctness and caving to the minority. I am a member of the pro-Dixie crowd, but you have given me food for thought.

    • sahm December 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      Perfectly put! Thank you for such thoughtful words absent of the anger so often seen in the comments around this topic.

  • Smigman December 6, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I don’t think the “minority” sees themselves as victims. What they do see in the majority is a great deal of denial….which serves no good purpose. When the minority is told to “just leave” or “just be quiet” or “you fabricated the evidence of racism at Dixie” how do you really expect them to react? Is one side right and the other wrong? Of course not. Is the minority trying to ban the word Dixie? No. You sure create a number of straw men in your hyperbolic scree. Lots of talk….no real substance. And by the way, I am a white male with very deep LDS pioneer roots in Utah. I just happen to be one that is less dogmatic and more humble than the majority of the majority.

  • Smigman December 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    And you know Bryan….someday you and I will be the minority. I hope that they are a more open-minded and tolerant majority than we have been.

  • Tyler December 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    “Like”!!

  • Steven Burr December 7, 2012 at 1:30 am

    I think that Dixie should stand up for its name and the community that has existed for 100+ years. The college has grown up with the community, changing the name would be a slap in the face to the historicity of the region and the community. Racisim is dead in the fact that no institution can legally support it especially a educational one, however we could erase our past by ignoring the fact that it happened. If your not educated enough to learn that it is Utah’s Dixie for its similarities of growing cotton (no slaves here) and that the name has stuck then maybe you should find another school to attend. And we need to stop giving heed to the minority, all it takes is less than 1 percent of the population to yell loud enough and they will get their way.

  • Carl December 7, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I have lived in St. George and the South. This controversy over the name Dixie comes from those that are history illiterate. Those that would be offended by it should also be offended by the name United States of America. It was legal in every state to have slaves, mandated by federal law. Even during and after the civil war there were a few northern states were slavery was legal. Georgia was the first colony to outlaw slavery-before the US existed! Dixie is a location, period. It does not represent slavery or prejudice any more than any other location does. It actually came about (Mason-Dixon Line) to stop bloodshed between landowners in Pennsylvania and Maryland, also pre-revolutionary war. Even the song Dixieland was written by a northerner about a former slave that longed to go back to his homeland.
    I guess I’m out voted, though. Let’s start renaming all the states that once had slavery, any college that at one time refused Blacks, remove the name of any US president that owned slaves from our history books, etc. Of course that would make the US an orphan. G. Washington owned slaves. We’ll need to rename Washington County, etc. When will this nonsense stop? From what I’m reading, those that want to get rid of Dixie are the ones that are cold hearted and prejudice.

  • Marius van der Merwe December 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    So Bryan tells us that “Cultural respect is a two-way street. Those who are most determined to demand change from everyone around them would be wise to remember this.”

    Now, if we can only get Bryan to play by his one rules! Instead we are to believe that those with a different opinion than him are “revisionists”, “self-appointed sensitivity experts”, “the professionally offended”, “the unthinking”, “self-aggrandizers” and “self-assured priggs”.

    Come on, you got to see the irony here!

    • CJ December 7, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      Well said, Marius. The hypocrisy in this article boggles the mind. Not to mention that there are so many logical fallacies.
      The word tyranny means “a ruler vested with absolute power,” or “absolute power, especially when exercised unjustly or cruelly.” Bryan has made it clear that the minority citizens who’ve expressed a desire to change the name of the university are devoid of any real power because they’re outnumbered. How can the powerless minority be tyrants?

  • CJ December 7, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    What fascinates me most about your quoting Morgan Freeman is that this is the first time I’ve heard anyone advocating for “Dixie University” quote or value the opinion of a black man. The pro-Dixie crowd at the community forum loudly heckled and booed the African American students who spoke up to say that the college’s history of racist actions and allegiance with the Confederacy has been harmful. That you’ve taken out of context a quote from a prominent African American in an effort to shut down a discussion about racism is ironic, but not surprising. Racism-deniers never want to talk about racism.

    To my fellow Southern-Utahns I hope this message will get through: we can’t keep claiming that our history is being sanitized by political correctness when we are the ones refusing to acknowledge the truth about our history. During the climactic years of the civil rights era, exactly one year after three Supreme Court rulings that forced Colleges in the South to desegregate and admit black students, Dixie College in Southern Utah reacted to the current events by changing its mascot to The Rebels and publicly identifying with the pro-segregationist Confederacy, flying the rebel flag, celebrating “The South Shall Rise Again” mentalities, holding mock slave auctions, and later installing a monument to the confederacy. Now the community claims that “Dixie” has never been about The South, it was only about the early pioneer settlers. That is revisionist history.

    It is time for a civilized discussion about how to move our school into the future so that all students feel welcome and valued.

    Here’s a must-watch documentary about the symbols of racism that has everything to do with the Dixie College name change debate. If you’ve attended community meetings and followed the local discussion then you’ll recognize verbatim rhetoric from both sides.

    http://vimeo.com/11076828#

    “Our lives begin to end when we stop talking about things that matter.” ~The late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr

  • Helen Schuenemann December 8, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Standing Ovation for Carl. As a recent resident to St. George I second and third his wise statements.

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