A true rebel of Black Studies. His journey began in Hollis, Queens and currently has him stationed at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He created the concept of Racelessness, the idea that one can see themselves as not having a race, yet understand how race affects day to day life. His commitment to black people is second to none. Below is a summary of his philosophy with an analysis.
What Rainier Spencer has Right.
He makes a reasonable and articulate case for racelessness. He also doesn’t use racelessness as a way to distance himself from other black people or the struggle for racial justice, quite the opposite, racelessness adds to his commitment. He also understands how multiracial people can be used to hurt other members of the black community. He actively identifies the mechanism that could pit multiracial black people against monoracial black people.
Spencer does the work that most people that consider themselves allies of black people should do. He understands the ways that his struggle is similar and dissimilar to that of monoracial black people. He then can see how he and other multiracial people can help and hurt the plight of the race as a whole. When building alliances, frequently the base of the union is an emotional understanding that both groups are disadvantaged. If members of the alliance could honestly dialogue to understand in what ways their struggle is similar, dissimilar, and divergent alliances among disadvantaged groups would be more stable and advantageous for both groups.
An alliance that could benefit from a more logical approach to commonality is the alliance between black and Latin people. Both groups are disadvantaged, yet the ways they are disadvantaged is very different. Blacks are disadvantaged from being economically isolated for the majority our time in this country. Latins are disadvantaged because of language barriers, unfair immigration laws, and the perception of being foreign. If a more nuanced look at our struggles were taken, we would see that many policies that help Latins hurt black people. For example, mandating grant application be available in Spanish and English. If the applications were English, only black people would have an advantage. Also, requiring job applicants be US citizens will help black people, but hurt many Latins. If both groups were more honest about what they need on a concrete level, when the racial groups decide to work together we would be more productive and fruitful.
What Rainier Spencer has Wrong
The HeyReb! mascot does allude to the Confederacy. The assertion that critics are assuming that HeyReb! is a Confederate simply because of his race and hat is absurd. The mascot cannot be taken out of context. The area Las Vegas was founded in was part of the Confederacy. The students did have a Confederate subculture for twenty years. In addition to this Las Vegas was segregated for many years and there were numerous racial incidents in the area. UNLV should remove any connection or possible connection to the Confederacy.
In the report, he says that the University has a deep connection with the nickname Rebels that could not be broken. If this is true, the school should just put changing the nickname to a vote. If people can not part with the Rebels nickname, the name will be safe. In Spencer’s report, he claims that UNLV is one of the most diverse campuses in America. If this is true, it would be difficult to believe that most students want a mascot that could in any way be linked to the Confederacy.
The Rebels report was very incomplete. It only used face to face interviews and articles from the school newspaper. First, the school newspaper has an incentive to play down conflict and animosity, due to the fact the newspaper answers to management at the school. If they print negative stories about the school, the administrators could cut funding or pull students scholarships. Second, face to face interviews could make interviewees feel uncomfortable when giving a dissenting opinion or relaying a negative story. For example, Spencer said only one member of the Black Student Organization expressed a problem with the flag. However, they were talking to a faculty member sent by the administration to determine if the school mascot needs to change. It could be they were afraid that they would be targeted or punished for expressing a negative opinion.
The information on Bill Casey, UNLV quarterback in 1968, shows bias that could play out due to a face to face interview. Bill Casey is black and was the quarterback for the UNLV Rebels when they had a Confederate flag on their helmets. Casey claims he never felt uncomfortable and his teammates said nothing racist in front of him. However, in a 2007 interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Casey reveals the UNLV allowed Casey an extra year of eligibility in spite of an ankle injury. If he had not gone to UNLV, he would be eligible for the Vietnam draft. The fact he did not say there were incidents of racism does not mean that he genuinely was not bothered or it is true no one made him feel uncomfortable. Giving this extra information opens the possibility that he looked the other way when racism surfaced because he had few alternatives. Also, if he did experience racism and did not fight back, it could be very embarrassing to retell the story. Not only will Casey have to relive the incident in his mind, but he could also feel he loses face in front of another black man that expected him to stand-up to oppression.
The study of UNLV’s mascot should have included anonymous surveys, and interviews with people accepted to UNLV but did not go. Spencer could have added both of these items to his study. Anonymous surveys will allow him to get a much more honest opinion of what people thought about the mascot. Interviewing the people that turned down UNLV could show how the mascot is affecting people’s decisions to go to UNLV. Even if people at UNLV like the mascot they should be aware of how much they are losing by keeping it. If Spencer presents the information that numerous star athletic recruits turn down the UNLV because of the name, they can determine if the cost outweighs the benefits.
Where is Rainier Spencer on the Spiral
Dr. Spencer is in the Green Meme. He attacks the concept of race opening the possibility for new groupings to form and unity with people of multiple “races.” He facilitates moving beyond race while realistically maneuvering in society. He understands race is not real, yet the effects of people’s perception of race have a real impact. As more people come to the “racelessness” view, what is considered “in group” expands from the blue meme concept.
Understanding “racelessness” is an I Space solution. Since “racelessness” is core to Spencer’s philosophy, this analysis has determined the “I Space” is where his solutions concentrate. His commitment to “IT Space” solutions such as Affirmative Action and taking racial demographic data shows his ability to embrace multiple solutions paths. His flexibility is a sign of Integral thinking.
Dr. Spencer did not express any need for revolution. Therefore he concentrates on First Order Change or change within the system in place.
For entire series on Rainer Spencer click:
- Ron Kantowski catches up with Bill Casey, who only played one season at UNLV but nonetheless remains one of the program’s top quarterbacks by R. Kantowski 10-22 -2007 http://www.lasvegassun.com
- Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
- Associate Vice President for Diversity Initiatives & Chief Diversity Officer, UNLV
- Founder and Director, Afro-American Studies Program at UNLV
Journal of Critical Mixed Race Study Editor
- Contributor to Mixed Race Studies.org
- Contributor to New York Times, CNN, and The Chronicle of Higher Education
Rainer (pronounced Rie Ner) Spencer was born in Hollis, Queens. He lived in what was a predominately white neighborhood in his younger years that transitioned into a black neighborhood by the time he was in high school. His father was black, and his mother was white. He joined the army and taught basic logic at West Point.
It was at West Point he began to question the concept of race. He realized that the concept of race, a biological connection with people of the same skin color, made no sense. He then decided to personally not identify with race while being aware that society perceives him as black. Knowing that society perceives him as black, inspires him to advocate for others that are perceived the same way.
While getting his Ph.D. in 1996, he participated in the Multiracial March on Washington. The chief issue was getting the government to allow multiracial people to mark more than one checkbox on government data sheets. He also began to dialogue with other multiracial people on the Interracial Individual’s (II) e-mail list.
Rainer does not believe in race. It has no concrete basis in science. Therefore it does not exist. He calls his stance racelessness and differentiates the stance from colorblindness. Colorblindness is looking over race without actively working to redress inequality or attempting to help the downtrodden. Racelessness is the belief that race does not exist, yet the concept of race has a very prolific effect on society. Racelessness is coupled with constant advocacy to remove the stain of racism in society.
Part of his activism causes him to mark “Black / African-American” on census and government forms. The government takes racial demographic information on these forms to aid in creating Civil Rights policy. By checking “Black / African-American,” he supports the government’s research on the perception of race and how it affects socioeconomic status. Spencer does not chastise other multiracial people that check all the races of their background or multiracial people that only check “White.” He feels the question should be changed to “How are you perceived” instead of “What is your racial background.”
Rainier Spencer does not believe multiracial identity or an increase in the number of multiracial people will dissolve America’s color lines. The only way to fix the racial problem is the abolition of the notion of race. The elimination of the idea will only come after serious work is done on the collective and individual levels regarding race and the redress of inequalities. In fact, the idea that a person could be multiracial strengthens the concept of race.
It is also a fallacy to think multiracial people will act as a bridge between different races. The idea of mixed race people acting as racial bridges is rooted in the idea that people are instinctively connected to race. There is no scientific evidence for this claim. Also, being closely involved with a person for a long period does not necessarily allow the integration of perspectives. Even if proximity allows a person to take on another’s perspective, working with someone closely, social interaction, and living with a person outside of a romantic relationship (roommates)could accomplish the same goal. Ultimately, the idea that multiracial people act as bridges further marginalizes mono-racial black people. The foundation of the concept of multiracial bridging is the presupposition the mono-racial black people are not capable of speaking for themselves or interacting with society.
If a person is multiracial, then both races that the individual claims are valid and exist. The only reason to make an issue of the racial status of each parent would be to distance themselves from the lower status parent. The idea of whites at the top and blacks at the bottom of a racial hierarchy is still reinforced. People of a multiracial background will not act as a bridge between races because they will aspire for white acceptance.
Having a multiracial checkbox on standardized tests and educational documents will be used to mask racial disparities. First, the multiracial checkbox will break continuity with historical data. The discontinuity will render historical data on racial disparity useless. It will also falsely equate people that do not have the same experiences. For example, a person that has a white parent and an Asian parent will be grouped with a black man that wants to acknowledge he has a white grandfather. Their experiences will be different and will be hidden under the success of people that are multiracial and not black. The category will always fall in the middle of statistical analysis not telling researchers anything.
Mainstream media purposely misleads the public on the impact of multiracial people. A CNN documentary reported that the multiracial population of Mississippi had grown 50% from 2000 – 2010. They did not report that multiracial people are only 1.1% of the total population of Mississippi in 2010. Most articles and documentaries in the media focus on the opinion of high school and college-aged multiracial people to counter actual scholarly studies on race. The idea is if the public stops talking about race these multiracial children will lead us into the post-racial America.
The mainstream media wants to push the idea of the Conservative Consensus . The Conservative Consensus is the idea race does not make an impact on outcomes or group disparities. No collective redress is needed, only proper personal choice and education. These multiracial children choosing to not identify with either race show us that race is simply a choice. Everyone should simply get on board and stop complaining.
Spencer created the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies to publish and gather scholarly articles on multiracial identity. The journal publishes the best scholarly articles on multiracial identity from all over the world. Spencer hopes to counterbalance the media portrayal of his people.
UNLV “Rebels” Mascot
After the Charleston Massacre in 2015, the University Of Nevada Las Vegas reevaluated their mascot and nickname. It is currently a Pathfinder in a red suit and gray hat. The nickname of the team is Rebels . Many people believe the name eludes to the Confederacy and slavery. Spencer conducted research and interviews from August 15th to November 18th of 2015. He also reviewed over 20 years of school newspaper articles.
His research determined the name “Rebels” predated the use of Confederate imagery. It alludes to the university’s struggle for independence for the University of Nevada Reno that was obstructed by the Nevada state legislature. People in the northern part of the state controlled the government. The obstructionist pattern in the legislature has been going on since the Las Vegas region was added to the state of Nevada in 1867, three years after statehood. Las Vegas is located in an area that was part of Arizona territory. Arizona aligned itself with the South in the Civil War. . No evidence could be found of battles in the Las Vegas area. Spencer also doesn’t mention in his paper that the area Las Vegas is in was part of Confederate Arizona.
The name “Rebels” was used informally to describe UNLV students since inception according to Spencer. The student body adopted a cartoon wolf dressed in Confederate uniform namedBeauregard the Wolf in the early 1950’s. His image is still in the original basketball stadium now used as an art museum.
There was far more Confederate symbolism than just the mascot. The school newspaper was called “The Rebel Yell” and featured a Confederate flag on the cover. The students would have a Confederate Cotillion that crowned a Southern Belle. The student government was called the Confederate Students of Nevada Southern. Spencer contends all the Confederate imagery was due to people not fully understanding what the Confederacy stood for in the 1950’s.
Student protests and a race riot in Las Vegas resulted in the removal of Confederate symbolism in the 1970’s. The student body was allowed to vote on the mascot and the nickname. The student body chose to get rid of the mascot and keep the Rebel’s nickname. They are replaced briefly with a Colonial soldier and a UNLV Sun. These mascots were not salient, and in 1982 a mascot committee was formed. The result is the current mascot HeyReb! aka Mr. Reb .
The official school stance is that HeyReb! was a 1800’s pathfinder or trailblazer. His clothing is Western, not Southern. He is depicted in a red coat and gray hat. However, when HeyReb! is displayed on clothing and logos he only has his gray hat. This leads most people to assume he is a Confederate. The school is adamant this is not the case, and a detailed investigation will lead anyone to the official school position. In fact, to assume that a white man in a gray hat must be a Confederate is in itself racist.
For the entire series on Rainer Spencer click:
FOR MORE ON DR. SPENCER
- How The States Got Their Shapes from the History Channel
- ”Mixed People Natural Bridges to Racial Healing Utopia?” Mixed Race Radio 09-04-2013 http://www.blogtalkradio.com
- Multiracial Identity on The Agenda with Steve Paiken 07-22-2011 TV Ontario
- ”Even discussing ‘angry black man’ stereotype provokes anger” by J. Blake http://www.cnn.com
- ”Mixed-Race Chic” by R. Spencer The Chronicle of Higher Education
- ”Racism and the Multiracial Check Box” by R. Spencer http://www.nytimes.com
- Excerpt of Chapter 9 of Reproducing Race: The Paradox of Generation Mix by R. Spencer
- “Only the News They Want to Print”: Mainstream Media and Critical Mixed-Race Studies by R. Spencer Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies
- Bill Casey Interview with Ron Kantowski for Las Vegas Sun 10-22-2007
- ”Raceless like me” by Z. Weinberg http://www.crimson.com
- “Sanita Jackson Show with Rainier Spencer 02-16-2011 WVON AM Chicago
- Dr. Rainier Spencer guest on Mixed Chicks Chat Episode #131
Many of the people in this blog work in academia in the United States. Many of these schools have Confederate mascots or Confederate statues. Here are a few examples of schools with Confederate mascots and how they handled them. I will also include my personal opinion on how they handled the situation.
University of Las Vegas Rebels
The current mascot of the UNLV Rebels is “Hey Reb” pictured above. The UNLV’s official stance is the mascot is not connected to the Old South and has not been since the 1970’s after students protested. The UNLV website has the following quote on the name “Rebel”:
”In the 1960’s especially, it [Rebels] symbolized those who rejected convention, tradition, racism…Most of all, in southern Nevada it stood for those who had opposed northern domination in the state legislature and unwanted dependency upon Reno”
The original mascot of the UNLV was the wolf Beauregard clad in a Confederate uniform. Originally, UNLV was called Nevada Southern. The reason the school chose a Confederate mascot was Nevada Southern started as a branch the University of Nevada Reno. Nevada Southern had to declare independence from UNR. They saw themselves as modern day rebels and chose a Confederate motif for their school. To contrast the UNR Wolf Pack, Nevada chose the cartoon wolf in Confederate uniform winking and smirking. The UNLV official website contends that the mascot was not meant to offend, but be a playful jab at the larger school.
The Confederate motif did not stop at sports. The Nevada Southern student government called itself “The Confederate Students of Nevada Southern.” The largest school social event was the “Confederate Cotillion, ” and the school paper was called “Rebel Yell.”
Students began to protest the Confederate motif in the 1970’s. Student athletes that refused to wear the wolf logo led the protests. The students were allowed to vote on the wolf logo and the name “Rebel”in 1971. The students chose to get rid of the wolf but keep the name rebel. The wolf was officially dropped in 1975. In the 1970’s, the school transitioned between the UNLV Sun logo and a colonial soldier logo both pictured below.
In 1983 UNLV, transitioned to its modern day trailblazer. The original logo is below. After a few years, the mascot was named “Hey Reb!”. Over the years the logo has changed, but it always had a gray hat and long mustache.
Many people have been protested recently against “Hey Reb!”. In 2015 two hundred students protested the name. The Charleston killings sparked the protest. Senator Harry Reid also encouraged UNLV to change the name. There was even an internet campaign to replace “Hey Reb!” with Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars Rebel Alliance.
To UNLV’s credit, it is one of the most diverse campuses. A 2015 LA Times article claims it has around 50% minority enrollment. According to the same article all but one member of the undergraduate Black Student Organization supported the mascot. Most of the minorities polled in a recent survey admitted the mascot looked like a Confederate Soldier.
Historically the UNLV was not segregated, and a 1962 Rebel Yell article condemned the University of Mississippi for not integrating. Bill Casey, a black man, played quarterback for the UNLV rebel in 1968. The 1968 team also had the Confederate battle flag on the helmet. Casey said he did not experience any racism on that team.
Nevada’s Civil War and Civil Rights History
Nevada entered the Union in 1864. Of course, it supported the North which was the only way it could gain entry. Lincoln waved the population requirement to ensure there would be enough congressional votes to pass the thirteenth amendment.
Many of Nevada’s original settlers were from the South. There was always fear that Southern sympathizers would try to overthrow Union installation. The Knights of the Golden Circle, a later faction of the KKK, were very active in the area. However, a strong Union troop presence squelched any serious resistance. The part of Nevada that holds Las Vegas was part of Arizona at the time. The Arizona Territory sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War.
Las Vegas has a fraught racial history, and Nevada earned the name “Mississippi of the West.” A 1954 Ebony magazine article claimed the segregation there was as bad as any place in the Deep South. All black people had to stay in the slum of West Las Vegas. There is even a story of a black woman being sent to jail simply because there was nowhere else for her to stay. There were reform efforts but those that supported gambling fought against black people. However, blacks continued to fight and desegregated Casinos in the Moulin Rouge Agreement in 1960.
Justification of the name “Rebels”
Another justification is that the basketball team is known colloquially as the “Runnin’ Rebels.” In the 1980’s the team was dominant in their division, and they were known nationwide as “Runnin’ Rebels.” To change the name would break the basketball history. Also, another name would not have the alliteration and ring.
Personal opinion on if the Mascot should change
The UNLV mascot should be changed to something that can’t be mistaken for Confederate. Even though the official school statement says the mascot is a pathfinder, depictions of his head with only a gray hat would lead a person to believe the mascot is a Confederate soldier. A change as simple as changing the hat to the other school color of crimson and the name to HeyJeb! would be enough to stop any confusion.
Nevada has no official Confederate history. Nevada was part of the Union in the war. The Southern sympathizers in the state were jailed or executed. There is no one from the state they are honoring with the name Rebels.
Given the stereotype or perception that Las Vegas is a racist place, the University must work diligently to fight this misconception. Ultimately, qualified candidates from all minority backgrounds will be turned off by the mascot. It would also make more sense and be more historically accurate to honor the Union troops that fought in the Civil War or some other aspect of Nevada history everyone could celebrate. Ultimately, UNLV and the state of Nevada is bigger than a mascot.
By claiming the mascot is not a Confederate, with the name HeyReb and a gray hat, they are doing the minorities at the school the worst disservice. Some of the most severe psychological trauma happens a person is told what he sees, thinks, and feels is not real. To say that the people that created that mascot did not have it planned the entire time to portray him as a Confederate is silly. The creators of the mascot knew full well that if the mascot only had the hat, he could be seen as a Confederate. It doesn’t matter if the depiction of the entire mascot has him in a red, western-style coat. Most depictions have the mascot in a gray hat with the word Rebel underneath. The insult to black people’s intelligence is doubled when supporters act like the mascot and symbols could not easily be changed.
If the mascot does not change, school officials should expect black and minority students to not support the team unless they are playing and not buy merchandise. I have heard many times in my life that black students have less school pride or patriotism. Situations like the UNLV Rebels, makes black people feel disenfranchised. Once a person feels disenfranchised, they will act out or isolate themselves.