Following the defacement of the James Meredith statue on campus Sunday, record-setting former Ole Miss wide receiver Shay Hodge was among many Ole Miss students, alumni, administration and fans who took to the internet to voice their opinions.
Most expressed outrage at the lack of respect shown for the statue erected as a tribute to James Meredith, the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Ole Miss critics joined the usual media chorus, taking advantage of the incident to accuse the school of being racist, in spite of the great strides the university has made in overcoming its past history of racial strife.
Hodge, the former Rebel superstar, however, eloquently supported his alma mater on Facebook today. The all-time career leader in receiving yards at Ole Miss gave his perspective on the school he dearly loves.
“I have to speak on the Ole Miss incident,” he began. “Yes, racism is still alive, but I believe in my heart it’s at a minimum nowadays, because I never felt it while attending The University of Mississippi.”
Hodge also pointed out how racism can be found across all groups. “I really wish people would realize that there are two types of people in every race — there are the people who see no color, and there are the people who hate other races. There are great white people in this world and especially at Ole Miss and on the other spectrum there are great black people, too, who have good morals, see no color and treat everyone the same. But there are also ones who do not like white people or other races, in general.”
Hodge is not sure whether the suspects in the statue incident are racist or just ignorant. “The people who did the act, I’m almost certain, are young and dumb an wanted attention. They may not even be racist — but just thought they would stir up something,” he said.
The legendary receiver went on to add, “I just wish people would stop trying to put the university down.” While he expressed obvious dismay over the defacement of the statue, Hodge does not believe the actions of a couple of people are indicative of the university as a whole. “I hate that happened at my school,” he said. “But I just wish people would kill that noise about Ole Miss being racist. We’ve come too far.”
Hodge also made it clear he believes any existing racism does not reside only in one group. “There are just as many racist African-Americans as there are racist white Americans,” he said. “Trust me, I hear enough of them talk on a daily basis.”
He noted it is entirely possible the suspects are not even associated with the University of Mississippi: “I’m almost certain the people involved are not from Mississippi—just like the person involved in the supposed ‘riot’ that took place after Obama became president. That was blown out of proportion and was, if I remember correctly, just one kid from Georgia.”
Hodge believes Ole Miss’ past is unfairly being used to judge its present, adding: “If you really think about it, the racism issue is often blown up here just because of the ‘history’ of Ole Miss. I’m glad I don’t see color, but you can’t change everyone’s views.”
He closed his Facebook post by writing: “I love you Ole Miss, and this shall pass. We just have to keep pushing forward! Hotty Toddy!”
When HottyToddy.com asked the Rebel great why he was motivated to address the situation, Hodge quickly replied: “I hate reading about racism like it only exists at Ole Miss and only towards African Americans.”
He then added, “It’s in every race, and I just wanted to put this out there to perhaps enlighten people on it. I am just tired of everyone trying to put Ole Miss down, period. It’s a great school. True, you can’t change everybody, but I believe the majority of people are not racist — only a select few.”
Evelyn Van Pelt is a HottyToddy.com sports writer and mother of an Ole Miss graduate who played for the Rebel volleyball team.