'A blight': Activists push for Mississippi to remove Confederate imagery from its flag
The movement to remove Confederate symbols — including the Confederate flag and depictions of Gen. Robert E. Lee — from public places in the southern states was underway long before George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25. But the “Justice for George Floyd” protests have intensified the movement. And journalist Rick Rojas, in the New York Times, reports that Mississippi finds itself in a unique position — as it is the only state in the U.S. whose flag incorporates the Confederate flag.
“In the long, passionate debate across the South over rooting out Confederate symbols, Mississippi’s flag remains one of the most conspicuous holdouts — with the battle flag of the Confederacy vividly embedded at the heart of the state flag,” Rojas explains. “And for decades, many in the state have resisted recurring efforts to change it, seeing in the flag a proud reminder of their ancestors’ bloodshed in fighting for Mississippi. Now, as Confederate monuments and symbols are being furiously toppled yet again, the debate over the Mississippi flag has been reinvigorated. Supporters of removing the battle flag, once and for all, say the national ferment set off by the death of George Floyd has provided a level of momentum they have not had before.”
Opponents of publicly displaying Confederate images in public places have stressed that while it’s one thing to have a Confederate flag or a depiction of Lee or Gen. Stonewall Jackson in a museum, it’s quite another to display it in a government building or a public park — as that amounts to a government endorsement of the Confederacy. And in Mississippi, anti-racist activists have been stressing that it’s time for the state to have a new flag.
Rev. Darren Leach of Genesis Church in Columbus, Mississippi, told the Times, “This is the time we’re going to get this done. It’s a good chance for the good people of Mississippi to just do what they know they should do: get us out from under this blight. The flag is a blight.”
John Hairston, president of the regional banking company Hancock Whitney, believes that Mississippi’s flag is hurting the stand from a business and financial standpoint. In an op-ed for the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi, Hairston asserted, “When recruiting against other regions for employers, image matters. We need a brand that showcases our capable work force, competitive cost of living, and superb quality of life. Simultaneously, we should be mindful that there are images which create division and distraction. One of those images is the current state flag.”
But some on the far right are adamantly opposed to Mississippi changing its flag, including Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel, a far-right Republican. On Facebook, McDaniel told supporters, “I don’t think we’re really talking about flags anymore. It’s more important than that: I think we’re talking about a structural and cultural revolution being pushed by the radical left, the intolerant left.”
Mississippi Today recently conducted a survey on whether the state should keep or abandon the current design of its flag. The survey founded that 63 members of the Mississippi State Legislature wanted to change the flag, while seven wanted to keep it the way it is — and 51 people in the Legislature wanted voters to decide.