by John Stevenson
My August 9 column discussed the renaming, removal, or downright destruction of symbols of the Confederate States of America and, by extension, “white supremacy.” These actions had been sporadic and seemingly unconnected with each other until the June 2015 South Carolina church massacre by a white supremacist. That terrible shooting galvanized public opinion, and the previously sporadic efforts became a nationwide movement to erase all traces of the Confederacy.
I described the primary target for historical erasure as being the Confederate leaders and generals, most notably General Robert E. Lee---who was typically depicted astride his horse, Traveller. And although Traveller probably took no position on slavery or on secession, just as Lee’s statues are taken down so are Traveller’s.
Then I took the liberty of posing a fanciful extrapolation of the history-scrubbing movement. I theorized that, once statues of Lee and Traveller had been removed from every public place in America, the movement would discover another Traveler worthy of their attention.
The University of Southern California’s mascot Traveler is a white horse with a rider in faux Trojan get-up. I believe USC’s Traveler is named after Lee’s Traveller, but there are folks on both sides of that question. Nevertheless, I warned that, once the statues were all gone, the streets, cities, and schools all renamed, the history scrubbers would demand that USC’s Traveler undergo a name change. I did this in an effort to point out the absurdity of the purification movement, which knows no limits.
Well, what a difference three days makes. I had of course failed to foresee the Nazis/KKK versus Antifa/BLM confrontation, slugfest, mayhem, and murder in Charlottesville on August 12. This event had a profound effect on the movement, since the Nazi/KKK element had announced that their presence was to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
This show of hate-group support for Confederate monuments gave the history-scrubbing movement an adrenalin rush which greatly accelerated their enthusiasm for destroying all things Confederate. Some statues were assaulted and pulled down by movement vandals, while others were removed and relocated in the dead of night by local authorities. The result of Charlottesville is that all Confederate symbols are now on the endangered species list.
Which brings us back to USC’s horse, Traveler. My somewhat tongue-in-cheek August 9 column predicted that Traveler (or at least his name) would be in danger---but I thought this would be in the future, when the statues had been eradicated and the history erasers sought new targets. My mistake.
According to the USC website “The Black Student Assembly is the official umbrella organization and funding board that oversees recognized African-American student organizations at USC.” (About three dozen such organizations are listed as being under that umbrella.)
Well, during the week following the Charlottesville tragedy, that Black Student Assembly held a protest rally in front of the Tommy Trojan statue on the USC campus. According to the Daily Trojan, “Saphia Jackson, co-director of the USC Black Student Assembly, opened the rally encouraging students not to remain silent, and reminding those in attendance that white supremacy hits close to home, referring to the presence of Traveler, USC’s mascot…” But “BSA co-directors Saphia Jackson and Ariana Seymore declined to comment on...(whether)…they would seek to remove Traveler’s statue from the campus.” Nevertheless, that door appears to have now been opened.
As you read this, the Trojans are just a couple of days from playing their 2017 home opener. Will Traveler take the field with the Trojans, as he and his forefathers have done each season since 1961? Will he be required to gallop incognito---or under an assumed name? Or will he simply be replaced by a non-white horse? And, if Traveler is still on the Trojans’ roster, will he survive the season without being cut?
What started out in my imagination as an absurdity has come true. See? I told you so.