Confederate statue debate moves west on horseback
Well, it’s about time.
After some Confederate statue-topplings, but before any Confederate book burnings, California protesters are now targeting a horse. A beautiful Arabian.
The creature’s unforgivable crime? His name is similar to the horse ridden by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee 152 years ago, Traveler. Only Lee’s horse used two L’s–Traveller.
Traveler is the official mascot of the University of Southern California. With a sword-waving, faux warrior in the saddle, he gallops all over the home field whenever the USC Trojan football team scores, which it’s expected to do a lot this season.
Unless you went to Notre Dame, Traveler’s majestic Saturday romps are actually a beautiful sight, the large muscular animal moving effortlessly over the turf, its long pure tail flying straight out in a breeze of his own making.
But somehow apparently the graceful creature got caught up in the ongoing racial debate about motionless statues to ancient Americans who fought for, supported or ruled in favor of the old South and slavery.
See, Traveler is white. All white. Supremely white.
Last week, a USC group staged a campus rally to show solidarity with Eastern groups just discovering the Civil War’s legacy. According to the L.A. Times, a leader of the Black Student Assembly, Saphia Jackson, mentioned the school mascot and said, “White supremacy hits close to home.” This launched an active exchange on social media.
You no doubt recall that California was intimately involved in the nation’s original heated slavery debate. Its admission to the Union was part of the Compromise of 1850, as long as California entered as a free state.
Traveler’s story is about as innocent as they come. He was a used movie horse, named Traveler and kind of mean when a Southern California salesman named Richard Saukko bought him cheap in 1958 and turned him mellow.
Three years later USC administrators spotted the pair in the Rose Bowl Parade and invited them to the season opener the next fall against Georgia Tech as a one-time stunt.
Saukko borrowed an uncomfortable warrior outfit from the costume leftovers of the “Ben Hur” movie. Yes, yes, Ben was Roman and Troy was Greek. But this is show biz. The first ride was so popular, Traveler became an institution. Now, he’s trademarked. And even — oh-oh — has his own campus statue.
Today’s new mascot is the ninth Traveler these last 56 years. He’ll make his dramatic debut entrance, galloping out of the ramp to the thunderous cheers of nearly 100,000 in the L.A. Coliseum on Sept. 2 against the Western Michigan (wait for it) Broncos.