WINCHESTER, TN (WSMV) - “Racism has been alive in Winchester for so long,” Franklin County resident Shanae Williams said.
Williams attended Franklin County High School growing up. One thing that never sat well with her was the Rebel Colonel mascot.
“I’m an African-American woman. I don’t feel like my mascot for the only high school in my town should be a confederate man,” Williams said.
It’s why she’s making a major effort to get things changed. After seeing people come together in her county for a peaceful protest, Williams said now is the perfect time for her community to take action.
“We just had a protest to show unity. I made a petition to change something that has hurt many African-Americans in Franklin County, and not just African-Americans, it has hurt White people, Asians, Hispanics. It's been insulting to Franklin County."
More than 1,400 people have signed her petition in support of her cause.
However, not everyone feels the same way as Williams.
A counter-petition has been started titled “Saving the Rebel mascot at Franklin County High School!”
On the page it said “Removing the Franklin County High School Mascot will not solve a national crisis,” referencing the protests across the country calling for police reform over the death of George Floyd.
The Save the Rebel Mascot petition now has over 700 signatures.
News4 reached out to Director of Schools Stanley Bean for comment on the school's mascot.
"Can you see and understand why many people have signed that petition, wanting to see the rebel mascot come down and what it means to many people, especially African-Americans?" News4 asked.
“I can’t answer why they feel that way cause I’m not,” Bean said. “And I don’t mean that in a negative way at all.”
Bean said he’s only recently heard of both petitions and is looking into their concerns, however, he added that it is ultimately up to the Board of Education to decide.
“A lot of times, it can divide the community that I love so much, and that’s what bothers me, because I care deeply about this county," Bean said. "I hate to see any group of people hurt by this, and I know these things will for people on both sides."
As for Williams, she plans on taking her petition to the next school board meeting on July 6.
“If we’re really going to move forward, not just in Franklin County, but in America, we have to start with ourselves. So, I have to start with my town. I have to call my own town out,” Williams said.
News4 contacted the people in charge of the petition who support keeping the rebel mascot. We have not received a response. News4 attempted to contact members of the Board of Education, but none returned our messages.