The Mississippi state flag’s retirement was long overdue

Anti-Confederate protestors in South Carolina

image from CNN

Anti-Confederate protestors in South Carolina

Leah Clark, Co-editor

There never should have been a debate over whether Mississippi’s state flag should be taken down.

Now, for many, bringing up this topic may seem as if I’m “beating a dead horse.” However, the Commission to redesign the state flag narrowed down their almost 3,000 submissions to 9 hopefuls this past weekend, and I feel it is my responsibility to educate people on the issues that many people held with our former state flag.

Unless you live under a rock, you should know that this past summer Mississippi retired its state flag, which was the last state flag in the United States with the Confederate battle emblem. Many people saw this as the beginning of a new chapter in Mississippi’s history after a long reputation of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and institutionalized racism. Nevertheless, some Mississippians opposed the change as they felt it was a blatant attack on their heritage as well as an attempt to erase the state’s history.

There are numerous things to unpack with those arguments. To start, the Mississippi state flag should represent and be a source of pride for all Mississippians. When our flag depicted the Confederate battle emblem, it did the opposite. The Confederate battle emblem was used as the symbol for the Confederacy of the United States in when Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861. Many Confederacy apologists like to claim that the Civil War was never about slavery rather it was only about protecting the states’ rights and their “Southern Pride.”

The problem with that statement is that slavery was the foundation of the South’s economy, unfortunately heavily entwined in the South’s culture. Although the Civil War ended in 1865, we can still see slavery’s influence in our prison systems, lower-income communities, and, of course, on our now retired state flag. Society has made various steps in the right direction to bring social justice to all. However, society still has a lot more progress to make as we still struggle with providing citizens of color the same justice that many white citizens have benefited from for hundreds of years.

Mississippi’s state flag was another reminder that American society still hadn’t healed from the wounds of slavery. Confederate apologists are a prime example of this as they continue to neglect the fact that many of the states that seceded did so as soon as their institutions of slavery were threatened. Hence why slavery, not states’ rights, is considered to be the main cause of the Civil War by most historians who oppose the rhetoric of Confederate apologists.

It is that same rhetoric that also attempts to dilute the horrors of Jim Crow laws and the struggles that many faced during the Civil Rights Movement. While many were on the right side of history fighting for equal rights as well as an end to racial discrimination, there were many hate groups on the wrong side, most notably the Ku Klux Klan. Having its origins at the beginning of the Reconstruction Era, the KKK pushed white supremacist agendas and targeted African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. Confederate battle flags were flown by these white supremacists and continue to be flown by them today.

Over 50 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, Mississippi has finally realized its errors and has realized what message that emblem sent and continues to send. A message of Mississippi treating citizens less than because of their skin tone. A message of Mississippi constantly turning a blind eye to the intergenerational psychological effects of slavery on African Americans. A message of Mississippi realizing that we have the highest African American population percentage in the United States, yet these citizens had to look upon their state government buildings, buildings meant to represent them, and see a symbol of hatred.

Mississippi retiring the state flag isn’t an eradication of our state’s history. Rather, this is Mississippi allowing us to reflect on the past and learn from our mistakes. While we were the last state to have a flag that depicts the Confederate battle emblem, this is us committing to our African American citizens that next time, we won’t be the last.