Universities across the nation are re-evaluating traditions that trace back to the dark racist history of America. One of those institutes is the University of Florida’s “Gator Bait” cheer.
What We Know:
- In June 2020, the President of the University of Florida, Kent Fuchs, released a statement titled “Another Step Toward Positive Change Against Racism,” which outlined the university’s intentions to address racism and inequity within their community which includes ending the “Gator Bait” chant.
- Performed at sporting events, the cheer consists of fans crying out “Gator Bait” and mimicking an alligator’s mouth with their arms.
- The phrase “Gator Bait” has been found by the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University to be linked to racism. In the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s, it was rumored white hunters would use black children as alligator bait.
- Although there has not been any detailed account recorded, there are articles, postcards, and songs referencing the horrific practice. As a result, the phrase is linked to a deep, gruesome racist past.
- There are people who believe the phrase is not attached to racism, but a symbol of school pride such as Lawrence Wright, who played safety on the University of Florida’s football team. He coined the phrase after the win against Florida State in 1995, “If you ain’t a Gator, ya Gator bait, baby”.
- Wright said, “I created something for us. It’s a college football thing. It’s not a racist thing, it’s about us, the Gator Nation. And I’m Black.”
The university is not only ending the chant but also is implementing “The Decade Ahead” plan which will educate students about racism.