I had an interesting exchange with Jeanetta Williams of the NAACP and got her permission to post our emails on my web site.
Subject: Request from Civil Rights Organization
Re: HB 61
The NAACP was founded in 1909 and is the nation's oldest Civil Rights Organization and we are asking that you would reconsider your previous votes and vote “No” on HB 61, Dixie State College - University status. We ask that you would reject any names with the word Dixie and grant the name of University of St. George as the new name. Upon the founding of this institution in 1911, the name was St. George Stake Academy.
The NAACP is committed to addressing all forms of discrimination which includes changing names of schools with negative racial connotations, eliminating mascots negative to the American Indian and in this case, changing the name of Dixie College. Maintaining the name Dixie College or Dixie State University perpetuates racist stereotypes. We acknowledge to you the negative connotation of the word "Dixie" and its background at Dixie State College.
The school’s mascot was recently called the "Rebel," the school yearbook was called “The Confederate,” yet officials at the college continue to deny any form of referencing Dixie College to the Civil War. There was a large statue of two confederate soldiers on campus and as late as 1991 there were mock slave auctions and students performed in black-face on campus. There are pictures in campus buildings of men wearing Confederate shirts.
There are a number of discriminatory pictures that were taken from 40 years of yearbooks at Dixie State College. Those yearbooks were entitled “The Confederate.” They showed students hoisting the confederate flag, students performing skits in black-face, and even portraying slaves on parade floats and Colonel Sanders sitting in front of a large group of cheering students in black face. Early December 2012, a statute on the Dixie College campus of Confederate soldiers was removed. The statue comprised of soldiers, a horse and a confederate battle flag, formally known as "The Rebels."
If there are any questions, I can be reached at ... or email ...
NAACP Salt Lake Branch
As a hero of the Civil Rights era, I take race issues very seriously. However, in this situation I think that you and others are seeing racial issues where none exist.
As a good representative of my constituents I am polling them to see how they feel on this issue and how I should vote. Currently, over 70% support the name change while only 17% oppose.
Do I have your permission to post your email request on my web site, www.DavidLifferth.com?
Rep. Dave Lifferth
Thank you for responding, however, you and I disagree on myself and others seeing racial issues where non exist. I am among many Civil Rights Activist who strongly believe that we are doing the correct thing and that is by bringing this to your attention. Rev. France Davis, a member of the Board of Regents voted against the name of Dixie State University. The Associated Press stated Rev. Davis as saying, "Davis said the regents were missing out on a chance to change perceptions of the region outside the state. He said he had been asked by educators in "the real Dixie" why a school in Utah would use that name after schools in the South have abandoned Confederate symbols. "I wonder if we miss an opportunity to move forward on the name," Davis said. "I wonder if the word 'Dixie' might be more fittingly changed to a more fresh or new word."
Representative Lifferth, you started out by saying that you as a hero of the civil rights era that you take race issues very seriously. What is it that you have done for civil rights or would you clarify your statement of you as a hero? I ask because I am not familiar with your name in the civil rights movement.
The NAACP fought hard for the passage of Brown v. Board of Education, Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, among many more and we won battles in the courts. In many of these instances, there were a large number of folks that did not agree with us. You might even be surprised that if you took a survey in Utah, some would think that what President Lincoln did with the Emancipation Proclamation was wrong. However, if you would like to post my letter on your website, I would also like for you to post this email. I have no problem with you posting my concerns.
The Sorenson Advertising report was hired to submit names for the name change of the college. The Sorenson report said, “If the university intends to capitalize on its university status and have a large role in the national stage, then a name for consideration would be “St. George University” (or University of St. George)." (pg. 52).
Thank you again for responding.
I'm glad that you asked. So here is the question: How could a skinny little 6-year old Mormon boy in Nashville, Tennessee be a hero of the Civil Rights Era? Well in 1971 Davidson County Schools became integrated schools. On my first day of 1st grade my mother and I walked right past the Racist Democratic protestors that were trying to shut my school down. In fact, we had to endure threats and actual hazing to get from our house to the school. I was one of the few white children that went to school that day, but as a result of that more children when on the next days until they had a full school that was integrated with students of all races. That school year was marked by repeated bomb threats to the school and daily pickets and protests. My first grade class was taught by Mr. Hall, a fiery young black lady who instilled discipline in all of her students. I was on of about 10 white children in that class of 20-30 students. There were 3 other 1st grade white teachers that had mostly white students in their classes. However, we made it through that first very difficult year. And yes, I take credit for being a leader at the age of 6 in loving all of my fellow boys and girls regardless of their race.
There is a lot more the story, but I was raised in a home that like Dr. King taught judged people on the content of their character and not on the color of their skin. I had outstanding teachers, friends, team captains, coaches, etc regardless of their race, religion, or gender. That is how I live my life, and how I teach my own children I do get irritated when people of any race see skin color before anything else.
Thank you for granting me the right to post this on my web site.
Rep. Dave Lifferth
Thank you for sharing your story. As you might imagine, I too have lots of stories, growing up in the same era. I get annoyed too, when I am accused of what you indicated as "get irritated when people of any race see skin color before anything else.
In all that I have said, I never mentioned "skin color." In my first email, I outlined instances of what had actually occurred on the campus at Dixie.
NAACP Salt Lake Branch & Tri-State Conference of Idaho, Nevada & Utah
Former Member, NAACP National Board of Directors