WEST MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - Maegan Price graduated from West Monroe High School and says being a "Rebel" is about more than just a mascot.
"Faith and family and community," said Price.
For her and other alumni, she says it's not an issue of race.
"We didn't fly our flags thinking who can we tick off today or who can we hurt today," said Price.
But more than a thousand people on Facebook disagree. The page is "West Monroe High School Rebel Mascot Change" and is calling for just that. Page administrators say the mascot is harmful and causes suffering. Those admins declined to interview with us on camera but did submit a written statement:
“We are WMHS alumni and for decades we’ve dreamed of changing the West Monroe High School Rebel mascot. It’s not just from the recent activities that we’ve come up with this idea; however, it is with recent interest and success that we feel people may finally have the courage to speak out and also be heard that they want the mascot changed.
We loved our time at WMHS, the friends we made and good memories. Unfortunately, we have also seen the Rebel mascot and partnering Confederate flag cause much harm and suffering to many of our friends, family, and business associates. People were bullied, harassed and even worse using the Rebel mascot and flag as a platform to build hate and prejudice from.
The local University changed the NLU Indians to the ULM Warhawks and their history and heritage were not erased or lost, and things worked out very well. We don’t want to suggest a mascot replacement, but there are a great many that are used throughout the nation successfully and are loved by their school and community possibly even more since it can be more representative of the whole student body and more widely accepted.
The fact is, the Rebel mascot and flag has a history (past, ongoing and recent) that does not welcome all races, cultures, religions, and lifestyles. The Rebel mascot and flag alone does harm to the community not to mention the kids in these schools that are harassed, bullied, and harmed simply based on race, religion, and lifestyles. The whole West Monroe city area is stuck with a perception (true or false) about not accepting diversity. Imagine being executives of Apple, Toyota, Facebook, etc and thinking about opening a large office location or data center there and considering moving existing employees and hiring employees, etc. Existing employees moving to West Monroe, LA from diverse families and areas would be very concerned about their children attending a school with a Rebel mascot, and trying to hire new local employees that fit in a diverse company would be considered a challenge.
People that first started Liking and commenting in support of our Facebook page were quickly harassed by their friends and family members. So many of them haven’t been able to do so publicly, but we’ve had great support and have heard from many. “ I would like the page except that the 'heritage' lovers in my facebook feed would stone me.”
As expected, we’ve also heard from angry and hateful people. Here are just a few comments from shortly before we wrote this just now… (Note: KNOE has removed offensive language from this list of comments.)
- “You think white people owe y'all smthn”
- “You might live off my tax dollars but best believe you will never take away our southern pride.”
- “Pull ya pants up and shut the hell up”
People have sent the meme going around stating that removing these mascots and flags is like ISIS removing historical landmarks. Our question is, when ISIS is destroyed, would it be ok to let a public school use them as a mascot/flag after they lost and were long history!?! Not so simple is it? History is what is was and it's not going anywhere! We just want our kids and their kids to go to a public school with a mascot/flag that is inviting and representative of all the students. School is tough enough, with normal peer pressures and bullying, that the Rebel flag is not of any help regardless of positive portions of history or heritage.
Finally, people more reasonable have asked about who would pay to change the sports and band uniforms, and replace the end zone turf, paint the water tower, etc. We know, that if there’s a will there’s a way! First, school uniforms are mostly replaced every year anyway, and we can surely see getting this crowd funded at the least!”
Those who created the Facebook group say the Rebel mascot is a divider. But Price and other alumni say this flag, and that mascot is what unites them as a community.
"I think it's a bunch of people trying to divide a community and create a problem where there's not a problem,” said Price.
And she says now, it's not just about her and her fellow alumni. She says she hopes one day her 2-year-old son will go to West Monroe and have the same Rebel pride.
"My son, he's beautiful. It would break my heart if somebody told my son he couldn't have something because he's biracial," said Price.
And she says the West Monroe Rebels are here to stay.
"You can't tear us down. We are West Monroe. We are the rebels. We are a people who loves one another and loves each other and helps each other out," said Price.
But those on the Facebook page say they're not done fighting for change. Ouachita Parish superintendent Don Coker says there's been no push to change the mascot.