The older memorials acted as symbols of the racism still present in America. courtesy Wikimedia Commons

New Emmett Till memorial doesn’t solve the problems that made it necessary

Students have protested the lack of action by lawmakers regarding white supremacists.

Emmett Louis Till was only 14 years old when he was lynched by a group of men after a white woman accused him of flirting with her in the store. After the group murdered him, they dumped his body in a river, and, when he was found, his face was unrecognizable. His death caused an outrage, and posthumously Till became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. In a 2008 interview Carolyn Bryant, the white woman who accused him of flirting and whistling at her, admitted that the whole story was fabricated.

50 years following Emmett Till’s death, a memorial in his honor was erected on the edge of the Tallahatchie River where his body was found. Even though this was a harmless memorial, simply an indicator of the dark past that occurred in Mississippi, it has gained notoriety for being defaced and disrespected.

The memorial plaque was constantly riddled with bullet holes, and white supremacists would pose next to it, holding guns and smiling, posting it to social media platforms like Instagram. In October, there was a scandal of Ole Miss students posing with firearms, and the students were only suspended. There was outrage surrounding this because many argued that the students should be charged with damaging government property and expelled from Ole Miss. Despite the white supremacists being caught, there have been subsequent instances of vandalism. The memorial had been defaced and vandalized more than five times.

On Oct. 20, it was announced that a bulletproof sign would replace the current one. Made of AR500 steel and covered in an acrylic panel that’s three-quarters of an inch thick, it was created to withstand a rifle round. In addition to this, a group of black students attending Ole Miss marched the old bullet riddled memorial and put it at the base of a confederate statue on Ole Miss’ campus, as a protest to take the confederate statue down.
Although the creation of a bulletproof memorial is an excellent way to both honor Emmett Till’s life and a way to keep it from getting vandalized, it is still extremely sickening that something like shooting up the sign was such a common thing. Students who posed with the bullet riddled sign smiling posted the picture to their Instagram, and the students have only been suspended for their racist actions. Many black students have stated how uncomfortable and unsafe they feel on the campus of Ole Miss, and how racism on the campus is ignored by many.

It’s shameful that there must be a bulletproof exhibit in the first place and that the students of Ole Miss are the ones taking a stand and protesting instead of law enforcement or the faculty of the university. It is a representation of the generations of violence against minorities and racism that is deeply embedded in the culture and history of Ole Miss and the south in general. But regardless, this is one step forward in the right direction: combatting and fighting racism and prejudice so future generations won’t have to go through it either.

Post Author: Nora Bethune