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SEPTEMBER 2020

War On Own History: Mississippi To Replace State Flag Featuring Confederate Battle Emblem

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War On Own History: Mississippi To Replace State Flag Featuring Confederate Battle Emblem

The Mississippi State flag

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced on Tuesday 30 June that he will sign a bill that was passed by both houses of the state legislature over the weekend to replace the state’s 126-year-old flag, which features the Confederate battle flag.

The obsession with erasing monuments and emblems that commemorate supposedly ‘racist’ or other ‘politically incorrect’ aspects of US history continues. There may not be much else left to remember, and it is not clear what will replace them.

Mississippi’s flag has long been a source of controversy in the southern state, which has the largest percentage of black residents in the country. The controversy was rekindled in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, during which many Confederate monuments and symbols have been removed. Some have been removed by ‘direct action’, at times involving dangerous confrontations with other groups seeking to protect the monuments, on other occasions monuments have been declared persona non grata by officials.

The bill to replace the flag passed the GOP-controlled legislature by a wide margin on Sunday, with the Mississippi House of Representatives passing it 91 to 23 in the morning, and the Senate passing it 37 to 14 later in the day.

Governor Reeves had previously opposed changing the flag, arguing that the question should be put to the voters rather than decided by lawmakers, but announced shortly before the bill was passed by lawmakers that he would sign the bill if it passed:

“The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag,” he wrote. “The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it. If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it.” LINK

Governor Reeves’ office issued a statement saying that the bill will be signed on Tuesday at a ceremony attended by legislators who promoted the bill as well as by African American leaders from the state, and that the Governor will deliver remarks “about the importance of unity and moving forward together as a state.”

The bill requires the “prompt, dignified and respectful” removal of the retired flag within 15 days of when the legislation took effect. The bill also establishes a nine-member commission to design the new flag, which must include the phrase “In God we trust.”

The design for a new flag must be submitted by September 14 and put to a state-wide vote in November. If the new design fails to pass in November, the commission will submit a new design to the legislature in 2021.

Mississippi is one of five states that has Confederate symbols in its flag, but the only one with the full Confederate battle emblem, the most recognizable symbol of the Confederacy. Georgia previously adopted a flag with the emblem in 1956, but dropped it in 2001 and later replaced it with a flag with a smaller and more subtle Confederate symbol.

After the bill passed, Kabir Karriem, a Democratic state representative, who is black, said it may be the most significant vote of his career.

Republican State Senator Chris McDaniel, who opposed the bill, declared of the campaign leading up to the vote. “No issue has animated Mississippians the way this one has,” he said Thursday, claiming he received “not one email, not 10 emails. Thousands of emails. Thousands of phone calls,” about the vote. He called the effort to change the flag an “orchestrated movement” and “nonsense.” LINK

Nonetheless, the campaign had gained widespread support beyond the social media horizon and was clearly significant for many residents of the state, as reported by Rolling Stone:

This weekend’s votes are the result of a widespread campaign to pressure the legislature to change the flag, following a national call for racial justice after weeks of Black Lives Matter national protests. On Thursday morning, a group including college football coaches and Christian ministers occupied the Mississippi Capitol to lobby for the flag to be changed. “We removed the flag from our campus five years ago, so we’ve made it clear that it doesn’t represent who we are at Ole Miss,” Lane Kiffin, head coach of Ole Miss, told ESPN. “Today is another big step in doing our part to move the state forward and ensure a more welcoming environment for everyone. This is extremely important to me and to our players.”

Mississippi is the last state in the nation whose flag bears the Confederate war emblem. In 2013, 150 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the state became the last to ratify the 13th Amendment and officially abolish slavery. LINK

However, the question remains. How will politically incorrect aspects of history be remembered, and what will replace them?

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