A Ghost Reminds Six Students of a KKK Equestrian, and That Alone May Unsaddle a $100,000 Statue

A Ghost Reminds Six Students of a KKK Equestrian, and That Alone May Unsaddle a $100,000 Statue
This image released by A24 shows a scene from the film, "A Ghost Story." (Bret Curry/A24 via AP)

America’s in the midst of deep disinfecting. Chief among pollutants being purged: white supremacy and adjacent Caucasian contagions.

Apropos of such an undertaking, consider the situation of a statue at Wisconsin’s Kaukauna High School.

Twenty-two years ago, a large piece of bronze artwork was installed near the entrance of the school’s new facilities. Its purpose, per Principal Barbara Fox McCurdy: to provide a “sense of the past.”

The monument modeled a horse mounted by the school’s long-established mascot, the Galloping Ghost.

For a bit of background, at football games since the 1940s, Kaukauna’s game ball has been delivered by a costumed rider. Kelly Vils portrayed the ghost in 1998, and she took that opportunity to upgrade the outfit.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal:

Vils was excited and proud, she told The Post-Crescent in an email, but she did make some changes to the costume, which was all white at the time.

She decided not to wear the white hood that went with it. There wasn’t any discussion about it being insensitive, but she said, “something about the white hood with the eyes cut out just didn’t sit right with me.”

The effigy at issue, to be clear, isn’t in color. Nor is there any hood. The rider has no hands and is blowing in the wind like a flowing sheet.

Yet, some students are sick of the statue — to them, it calls to the KKK.

And there’s a whole half-dozen of ’em:

One of six students who provided written statements to the school board recounted the trauma and hardship passed down through the generations of their family, including their father being called racial slurs while growing up in northeast Wisconsin.

The Ku Klux Klan oppressed Native Americans through “violent and dangerous rhetoric,” the student wrote, saying, “we can not leave it standing any longer.”

They know the sculpture has nothing to do with that, but knowing is neither here nor there:

The students said they understand the statue was intended to honor the school’s Galloping Ghost mascot and not to be a hateful symbol, but that isn’t a reason to keep it when it can create an unwelcoming environment for people.

Do you think it beckons bigotry? Trigger Warning:

As for the Galloping Ghost’s origin, the Kaukauna Public Library indicates two mid-1920s possibilities:

One story says a reporter for a local newspaper said the Kaukauna football team dressed in all white looked like ghosts galloping over the Appleton football team. The other story credits the coach of the struggling 1924 football team who supposedly asked his players to emulate Harold “Red” Grange, who played for the University of Illinois and later the Chicago Bears and was nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost.”

Will the school’s simulated spirit and his stallion get shot and used for glue?

They just might.

[T]he district determined three potential options for the statue’s future, according to an emailed statement from Superintendent Mark Duerwaechter.

The first option is to leave the statue as it is, the second is to add a sign in front that reads “Welcome to the Home of the Galloping Ghost,” and the third is to relocate it away from the front entrance of the high school.

June will bring a final decision.

Meanwhile, in the name of progress, schools across the country are making moves:

The Racism of Trees? Portland School Presses Pause on a Proposed Mascot Due to Its Terrible Ties

Major University Accuses Its Own Mascot of White Supremacy, but Now Everything’s ‘Okay’

College Announces Fierce New Mascot: A Sexless Social Justice Warrior Victimized by Climate Change

In an Unsurprising Turn, a High School Sees Its ‘Slave/Branding Auction’ Canceled

We Are So Pathetic: School in Virginia Considers Dropping the Wasp as Its Mascot Due to the White People Acronym

Until recently, American history had value. Now, it’s largely looked at as a lot of white supremacy.

And previously, what was actual was of the utmost importance. Presently, unfounded impressions may topple statues.

Back in 2000, artist Jim Hopfensperger — who created Kaukauna’s $100,000 work — adjusted his original design so a bump on the head of the horseman wouldn’t come across as Klan-ish.

At the time, Jim — who passed away in 2019 — posed, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a galloping ghost. I mean, how far do we throw this political correctness thing?”

We’re a long way from the start of the century, and quite a distance from even 2019. In the past, kids who got creeped out were commonly comforted with “It’s only the wind.” Or, alternately, “It’s merely the monument of your mascot.” But these days, America is spectacularly spooked. And scores are inconsolably haunted by the ghost of white supremacy.



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