The University of Florida, which has one of the biggest football programs in the country, is addressing racism on campus. In a press release published on June 18, Kent Fuchs, who serves as the president of the university, detailed his plan to make positive steps toward addressing racial inequality.
The multi-tiered outline makes note of on campus statues that have ties to the Confederacy, as well as facilities that are named after Confederate leaders. Per the release, anything tied to the Confederacy will be removed from the campus.
The plan also made mention of the creation of task forces to address instances of racism among the UF community, and increasing representation for diversity.
One facet of the outline that garnered a lot of attention was Kent's vow to end the "Gator Bait" chant at football games because of its racist origins. While some argued that the chant was an integral part of the UF football culture, many had not been aware of how the chant originated.
What is the meaning of "Gator Bait"? Find out the disturbing roots of the chant below.
What does "Gator Bait" mean?
The "Gator Bait" chant is often used along with the signature "Gator Chomp" gesture. Both have often been performed during big moments at various UF sporting events.
Per the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University, Black babies were used by slaveholders as bait to draw out alligators from the water. This was done so the slave masters could kill the alligators and skin them for leather.
The practice continued after slavery ended, and throughout the Jim Crow Era in the 20th century.
The disturbing action was chronicled in several publications during the slavery era, and the article references the Oakland Tribune from 1923. The piece from the Oakland Tribune mentioned how the babies would be placed near where the alligator was living in the hopes of luring the animal out. When the alligator emerged, it would subsequently be shot, while the baby was still next to it.
Before you get all outraged about University of Florida banning the “Gator Bait” chant and signage, just know where it came from.— George Wrighster III (@georgewrighster) June 18, 2020
The fact that people don’t know things like this is what’s wrong with “American History”. It paints a watered down/palatable version. pic.twitter.com/j1KQ85Mwek
Another newspaper clipping referenced from the museum's archives described how mothers would be paid $2 to use their children as bait for the alligators.
Based on the sickening origin of the chant, it's no surprise that it was banned from the University of Florida.
The University of Florida president announced that the chant would be "discontinued."
While divulging his 15 step plan to address racism and being more inclusive at the University of Florida, Kent stated that the "Gator Chant" would no longer be tolerated at any on campus games.
"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. Accordingly, University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer," he wrote.
If you are looking for ways to donate your time or money to Black Lives Matter and other antiracist organizations, we have created a list of resources to get you started.