Over 150 years ago, the term “Dixie” was considered a nickname by many people located in the South that composed the 11 states of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, which ultimately resulted in the end of slavery of Black Americans.
Now a century and a half later, that term — which throughout that entire time has always remained controversial because of its offensive meaning for all persons of color — is being removed from the national lexicon, in spite of those who feel it was an acceptable part of our nation’s storied history.
And yesterday afternoon, New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson became the latest influential public figure to make sure that it finally happens.
The 73-year old NOLA native, who took control of the team following the death of her husband and former long-time Saints owner Tom Benson in 2018, also is the owner of the Dixie Brewing Company of New Orleans, an “off-shoot” of the iconic local beer brand that originally was founded in Mid-City on Tulane Avenue over a century ago in 1907.
Dixie Brewing Co. had been re-established by Tom Benson the year before his death in 2017, when he and Gayle bought the rights to return the brand to the New Orleans community; after it was forced to shut down in 2005 following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
The name “Dixie” was kept as production of the beer resumed at the company’s new warehousing facility out in New Orleans East.
But after yesterday’s somewhat surprising announcement by Mrs. Benson, that term will now be eliminated and replaced with a different brand name; and one that many hope will still maintain a connection to the city and the surrounding region.
In other words: Mrs. B is putting her reputation (and ultimately her money) where her heart is.
It was not long after lunch-time yesterday when she and the company simultaneously issued an official statement in which it was announced that the “process is underway to change the name of Dixie Brewery and all Dixie branded products.”
Additionally, it was also revealed that a third party agency will begin research to eventually select a new official name the for the brand moving forward.
“With inclusive input from all of our community stakeholders, we are preparing to change the name of our brewery and products that carry the Dixie brand and these conversations will determine what brand will best represent our culture and community”, Mrs. Benson stated.
“We look forward to listening, learning and making sure that our brewery fulfills its promise of uniting, inspiring and leading all in our community.”
Mrs. Benson’s notable action yesterday was just one among the latest in similar efforts throughout the nation in recent weeks, to foster and implement long-overdue societal change specifically empathetic to African-Americans and other minorities all of whom have been the victims of systemic racism.
Several other recent changes have been made recently to eradicate any terms or references that are associated with the former Confederacy, that sadly have still existed ever since the end of the Civil War.
Grammy-award winning country music group / recording artists Lady Antebellum last week announced they were dropping the phrase “antebellum” (a reference to the time and period of the Civil War) from their name, and re-branded themselves as “Lady A.”
Dear fans… pic.twitter.com/7JlcH2NMl6
— Lady A (@ladya) June 11, 2020
Then just a few days later, fellow country musicians and all-female group The Dixie Chicks announced that they too were instituting an official name change, and re-branding themselves simply as “The Chicks.”
— The Chicks (@thechicks) June 25, 2020
However, not everyone believes that these recent efforts are needed, and there are those who feel that such measures are an “over-reach” — or as its become popularly known especially among Conservatives and loyal supporters of President Trump — a prime example of the new term “cancel culture”.
First Lady Antebellum changes their name to Lady A for “political correctness”, and now the Dixie Chicks are just The Chicks…. It’s a fucking clown show at this point folks with all the “wokeness”… Grow the fuck up and get some tougher skin I say. 😆 https://t.co/imTeKLHl6y
— Bobby (@BobbyWilson1004) June 25, 2020
The term of “cancel culture” basically is defined as the popular practice of withdrawing support for (or canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.
Within the past week, there have been much-publicized organized events in which statues of historical figures with a connection to America’s racist past, have been either knocked down or destroyed by protesters.
Those actions have angered many, who believe that the statues are a distinctive part of our nation’s history and regardless if they’re viewed as being “right or wrong”, should be allowed to remain in place.
What now stands where the John McDonough bust used to be in Duncan Plaza. Today, protesters took down the statue and threw it into the Mississippi River. McDonough was a white slave owner with ties to New Orleans @WWLTV #BeOn4 pic.twitter.com/EiR207V9Q6
— Andres Fuentes (@news_fuentes) June 14, 2020
Nevertheless, the act of “cancel culture” typically happens on Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, in the form of group shaming (where many with the same views essentially “gang up” on an individual or an organization). And politically-speaking, the method of group shaming is utilized by people who are on both “sides”.
After yesterday’s announcement by Mrs. Benson, a handful of Saints fans along with those who simply feel that “Dixie Beer” is a long-time New Orleans institution and should be allowed to remain part of the local tradition as it always has; unfortunately decided to make verbal attacks or “take shots” at the beloved Saints owner.
Gayle Benson and @drewbrees are a POS!! Go ahead and try to destroy our Southern Heritage you’re definitely going to regret it. You should change the name for the Saints to the devils👹 you’re definitely no saint. OMG I hope they lose every fuking game.
— Xtiger099x (@xtiger099x) June 27, 2020
Some also questioned her knowledge of the actual history of the term, which as it turns out has multiple meanings based upon other related references such as currency (a $10 dollar bill) prior to the war itself.
Oh boy. #GayleBenson Learn your history about the word #Dixie It’s from the french word “dix” for “ten” nicknamed “dixies” & began in #Louisiana when printed on the $10 bill circulated throughout the South BEFORE the Civil War. Learn your history for God’s sakes!🙄 #DixieBeer
— Neesy🌺🌴 (@TheDeniseFolsom) June 26, 2020
There also were many who felt Mrs. Benson’s decision was largely symbolic more than anything else, and was a prime example of “virtue signaling.”
Virtue signaling is the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.
Which means that there are more than just a few folks who feel that Mrs. Benson is deleting “Dixie” as the name of her business, mainly just to protect her reputation and the status of her vast financial empire (valued at $2.8 billion) and not necessarily because she felt it was offensive.
That said, the fact of the matter (as noted in her statement) is that she has been considering making this move for some time, and the past month of social unrest throughout the country honestly just made it the RIGHT TIME for her to act.
We can speculate all day long as to what her TRUE motives might or might not have been, but the bottom line seems to be that she felt compelled to make this happen because it’s how she truly feels within her heart.
Whether you as a Saints fan believe that to be the case or not, is up for you to decide for yourself.
As someone myself whose late Grandfather actually worked at the original Dixie Beer Facility located in Mid-City on Tulane Avenue right near South Rocheblave Street during the late 1960’s until the mid 1970’s, I’m a bit conflicted myself.
CLEARLY the term “Dixie” is offensive for all Black Americans and persons of color, and considering everything that’s occurred within the past month, it’s hard to find sympathy or justification for any type of effort made to keep it around any longer.
Conversely however, as a NOLA native whose most treasured memories as a young boy growing up in New Orleans include my late great “Paw Paw” drinking Dixie Beer at the old Tulane Stadium (where it was available) as we attended the Saints games there, has me feeling a bit conflicted emotionally by it all.
It’s difficult somewhat to readily part ways with something so prominent in the history of my very own life.
But times change, and our nation is on the very cusp of an entire cultural revolution, one that eventually will alter the way that we live and function as a society forever, from this point forward.
What Mrs. Benson did yesterday was a significant commitment to making that change happen and take place, and only those who are comfortable with “keeping things the way that they’ve always been”, are the ones who are unequivocally against it.
In the end, Gayle Benson decided that deleting “Dixie” was the right choice to make.
The Saints owner has willingly put reputation over the cries of “cancel culture” — and in due time, we’ll all find out if it was the right decision to make or not…..
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius