The University of Florida is looking to take steps to combat racism and injustice on its own campus. Today, school president Kent Fuchs announced some actions the university will take, which includes the end of the popular "Gator Bait" chant during football games.
Fuchs has released a list of actions that the school will take to address racism within the UF community. He broke them down into "education, research, and community engagement," "history, symbolism, and demonstrating behaviors consistent with out values," and "representation, inclusion, opportunity, and accountability." Among the actions in that second group is the removal of any "monuments and namings" that celebrate the confederacy and confederate leaders.
"Gator Bait" doesn't come to the front of mind for many when it comes to these goals, but it stems from a horrid practice in Florida and elsewhere in the South from the 19th and early 20th century. As detailed by ESPN's The Undefeated and Snopes, there is a history of hunters using Black children as literal bait when trying to catch alligators. You can see how the "Gator Bait" chant can evoke some really awful images.
"While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our 'Gator Bait' cheer at UF sporting events, there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase," Fuchs wrote. "Accordingly, University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer." The full release from Fuchs:
"It is past time for UF to commit and engage in this challenging, uncomfortable, transformational work," he continued at the end of the message. "We know that we cannot undo lifetimes of injustice and racism, but we believe we can make progress - in education, in advancing truth, reconciliation and justice, and in anti-racism, equality and working to eradicate inequities."
"This process will not be easy, and we will need to work together through the imperfections, missteps and complications that always accompany change. But the progress we seek is fundamental to who we are at UF and to our expectations of ourselves, and I look forward to joining all of you on behalf of our campus, community and country."
A number of schools are taking steps to try and be better on fighting racial inequality. Florida appears committed to taking some big steps forward.