On October 22 Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger ran a story about how the University of Mississippi is fighting efforts for a trademark to be granted for the brand name “New Miss” (re: New Miss? University of Mississippi opposes trademark for James Meredith-linked brand). The argument is that the New Miss logo is too similar to the Ole Miss logo and would potentially hurt the University’s reputation and merchandise sales.

While it is true that the New Miss logo is quite similar to the Ole Miss one, I think the University is taking a heads-in-the-sand, short-sighted, shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot, and altogether ignorant approach to this.

When in 1962 James Meredith became the first African American to be admitted to the University, the first step toward a New Miss was taken. Meredith’s intent was to force the government to protect the civil rights of African Americans and to promote equal voting rights. His courage and commitment made him a civil rights icon. While the New Miss logo was not Meredith’s idea, the originators plan for the proceeds from products bearing the New Miss logo to be used to financially support the 88-year-old trailblazer.

James Meredith wearing the New Miss hat.
Photo courtesy Suzi Altman

If the University succeeds in blocking the branding of New Miss, one message that could easily be sent to the world is that Mississippians in general and the University specifically remain entangled in and continue to embrace their racist roots. Those roots have the potential of choking out much of the progress toward racial reconciliation the University has made over the last 60 years.

I take issue with the University’s assertion that New Miss could hurt its reputation. Contrary to that, I believe this could be one of the best things to happen to the University’s reputation in a long, long time.

Imagine this: “Ole Miss is the New Miss”, or “Ole Miss: The New Miss”. That would be a powerful declaration to the world that the University is continuing to evolve into an institution that is inclusive and forward-thinking. New Miss merchandise could be sold right beside Ole Miss products. A deal could be struck to sometimes have the two logos combined as I’ve suggested above.

The marriage of Ole Miss and New Miss could be one hell of an advertising campaign! Put it on signs and bumper stickers. Use it in television ads. “Ole Miss is the New Miss” could be a gold mine for both the University’s reputation and coffers, and it would be a significant act of kindness, respect, and gratitude for Meredith and how he helped make this little postage stamp of native soil a better place.

Ole Miss and New Miss CAN co-exist. They do not have to be at odds with each other, rather, they can be strong allies. I call on the powers that be at the University of Mississippi to embrace New Miss and take one more step toward unity. Alums who might quit giving as a result will soon be replaced by others with a greater vision for the University. But if you won’t embrace New Miss, please get out of the way and let it be. The University’s donors have more deep pockets than all the overalls ever worn on Hee! Haw! combined. James Meredith is one solitary man who put his life on the line for a higher purpose. Let Ole Miss be the New Miss.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land,
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand.
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command.
Your old road is rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand,
For the times they are a-changin’

(The Times, They Are a-Changin’. Music and lyrics by Bob Dylan. ©Copyright 2020, Universal Music Publishing Group).

Originally published in Oxford, Mississippi’s The Local Voice, http://www.thelocalvoice.net/oxford/the-view-from-the-balcony-ole-miss-the-new-miss/

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