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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ole Miss Proudly Unfurls State Flag As a Symbol of Hatred and Bigotry


 

This is the flag of the State of Mississippi. Mississippi is one of the fifty United States in America. It is the sole remaining U.S. state flag which bears the Confederate battle flag's saltire (heraldry), after Georgia adopted a new flag in 2001.

The pledge to the state flag of Mississippi is:
"I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God."
— Mississippi Code Ann., Section 37-13-7, 1972
The statute is part of the set of state statutes that governs the curriculum of the state's public schools. Section 37-13-7 provides: "The pledge of allegiance to the Mississippi flag shall be taught in the public schools of this state, along with the pledge of allegiance to the United States flag."

We all know flags are powerful symbols – not merely pieces of fabric that signify dominion and sovereignty but also vaulted emblems that express personal and political allegiance. I believe this flag misrepresents not only the "pride" but also the "confidence in the future" of the state. I think the obvious negative heraldry is an affront to millions of Americans. And, more importantly, an insincere representation of equality to our "Almighty God."

Earlier flags of Mississippi are not controversial in the least. What happened to make the present flag a symbol of the people there? With all due respect to the great State of Mississippi, let's examine the history of the state flag.

 
 Bonnie Blue Flag

1861

Prior to 1861, Mississippi, like most U.S. states, had no official state flag. When Mississippi declared its secession from the Union on January 9, 1861 near the start of the American Civil War, spectators in the balcony handed what is known as a Bonnie Blue Flag down to the Session Convention delegates on the floor and one was raised over the capitol building in Jackson as a sign of independence.

(Jau Winik, "A New Flag for a New Mississippi," New York Times, Feb. 11, 2001.)

For a few weeks, the old Bonnie Blue Flag of 1810 was the new Sovereign Republic of Mississippi informal symbol. But on January 26, the republic adopted a new flag with the Bonnie Blue Flag in its canton and a magnolia tree in its center field.

 Magnolia Flag

Although it was not widely used or displayed during the Civil War, the Magnolia Flag remained the official state flag of Mississippi until 1865. In the aftermath of the Civil War, a constitutional convention assembled in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 14, 1865, to revoke and repeal many of the actions taken by the Secession Convention of 1861. On August 22, the convention declared the Ordinance of Secession null and void and repealed several other ordinances. Among those repealed was the ordinance adopting a coat of arms and a state flag. This action left Mississippi without an official flag.

1894

In 1890, white Missisippian Democrats created a new state constitution in order to disenfranchise African American citizens from voting through literacy tests and poll taxes, thus marginalizing the Republican Party's influence in the state.

According to the convention's delegates, some of whom were former Confederates, black suffrage was an effort by "negro dupes" to "pull down civilization.” This marked the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the state.

A few years later, on April 23, 1894, a new flag was adopted by the Mississippi Legislature in a Special Session. According to historian John M. Coski, this flag change coincided with the rise of Jim Crow laws and segregation, as other former Confederate slave states, such as Florida and Alabama, also adopted new state flags based off Confederate designs around the same time when those states instituted Jim Crow segregation laws themselves.
(John M. Coski. The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem. 2005)
According to the best information available, Senator E.N. Scudder of Mayersville, a member of the Joint Legislative Committee for a State Flag, designed Mississippi’s new flag. And, on February 7, 1894, Governor Stone, a Confederate veteran and former colonel of the Second Mississippi Infantry Regiment, signed into law the bill creating the state flag.

Much later, in 1924, Fayssoux Scudder Corneil, Senator Scudder’s daughter, stated in an address to the annual convention of the Mississippi Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, that her father designed the flag and included the Beauregard battle flag in the canton corner to honor the Confederate soldier. Corneil recalled:
“My father loved the memory of the valor and courage of those brave men who wore the grey…. He told me that it was a simple matter for him to design the flag because he wanted to perpetuate in a legal and lasting way that dear battle flag under which so many of our people had so gloriously fought.”
In 1906, Mississippi adopted a revised legal code that repealed all general laws that were not reenacted by the legislature or brought forward in the new code. The 1906 legal code did not bring forward the law that created an official state flag and a coat of arms. Because of this oversight, likely inadvertent, the state of Mississippi did not have an official state flag from 1906-2001. Nonetheless, the 1894 flag continued to be used as the de facto state flag until it was officially readopted on April 17, 2001.

Adopted, But Not Without Resistance

In January 2001, Governor Ronnie Musgrove appointed an independent commission which developed a new proposed design, and on April 17, 2001, a non-binding state referendum to change the flag was put before Mississippi voters.

The proposal would have replaced the Confederate battle flag with a blue canton with 20 stars. The outer ring of 13 stars would represent the original Thirteen Colones, the ring of six stars would represent the six nations that have had sovereignty over Mississippi territory (various Native American nations as a collective nation, French Empire, Spanish Empire, Great Britain, the United States, and the Confederacy), and the inner and slightly larger star would represent Mississippi itself. The 20 stars would also represent Mississippi's status as the 20th member of the United States.

The referendum for a new flag was defeated in a vote of 64% (488,630 votes) to 36% (267,812) and the old flag was retained.
    (Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans v. Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches, 774 So.2d 388. 2000.)
    (James M. Dedman IV. (Fall 2001). "At Daggers Drawn: The Confederate Flag and the School Classroom - A Case Study of a Broken First Amendment Formula". Baylor Law Review. Fall 2001.)
    (“Election Results.” State of Mississippi. 2001-04-27.)
The Offensive Symbol of the State of Mississippi

After the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, by racist Dylan Roof that left nine people dead at a storied black church, several prominent Mississippi legislators supported a redesigned flag without Confederate symbols.
 
Yet, no change was made. Josh Sanburn of Time reported, “Only a handful of Mississippi’s 174 state legislators signaled that they would consider even debating a motion to change it. The state’s 97 Republican legislators will likely be opposed to any change, and there’s still one important hold-out: Republican Governor Phil Bryant, who essentially warned legislators on Tuesday not to attempt to override 2001’s referendum.”

(Josh Sanburn. “Why Mississippi Is Unlikely to Redesign Its State Flag.” Time. June 23, 2015.)

In August 2015 A survey of lawmakers by the Jackson Mississippi Clarion-Ledger found that 64 of Mississippi's legislators said they supported changing the flag, 24 opposed it, and nine said they were undecided – but 96 wouldn't respond or give an answer. The majority of those in support of changing the flag were Democrats.

Among the prominent – and perhaps surprising – supporters of the symbol’s removal is Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, a major Republican figure in the state. 
 
"We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us," Representative Gunn, a leader in his local Baptist church, said in a statement. "As a Christian, I believe our state's flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi's flag."

Still, the political pressure to change the flag’s design remains low.

"Even as the speaker has decided to take a courageous stand against his own party, he still has to go against the governor and lieutenant governor, who totally don’t want the issue to come up," John Bruce, a University of Mississippi political science professor, says.

(Kevin Truong. “Mississippi flag change? State unlikely to remove Confederate flag soon.” The Christian Science Monitor. August 17, 2015.)

Believe it or not, other than the NAACP, which has kept up a steady bid to dump the flag for more than two decades, there is no serious organization devoted to retiring the flag. 
 
Neely Tucker, staff writer of The Washington Post, took a trip to the historic Neshoba County Mississippi Fair in 2015. The grounds were once the site of a campaigning Ronald Reagan who declared his belief in “states’ rights” there.

Tucker found the fairgrounds “festooned with (Mississippi) state flags and Confederate banners.” He says, 'They were draped from many of the hundreds of cottages that ring the red-dirt horse-racing track. They lolled outside the RVs parked beneath the pines. They flapped from the back of pickup trucks.”

To end this blog entry, allow me to quote the finish of the article. I believe it will make you realize the historical dilemma faced by the citizens of Mississippi. But, at the same time, I believe it may convince you of the absurdity of retaining a symbol of the Confederacy that continues to represent hatred and bigotry.

Neely Tucker – novelist, speaker, journalist, and seventh-generation Mississippian – writes ...

At the Neshoba County Fair, Tommy Williams’s family has owned a cottage near the first turn of the racetrack for more than three decades. A retired administrator with the Mississippi Department of Health, he describes himself as a “Civil War historian” and thus has always flown a Confederate flag at the fair. He’s gracious on the subject and says he can certainly understand other points of view.

But when he takes a reporter onto the second-floor deck, the atmosphere changes.

He quiets down the all-white crowd, then announces that a reporter is here, writing about the flag.
Silence ensues. One man yells something angrily. Another leans forward and says, “They can get rid of the flag all right — just take the NAACP out of the state with it.”

Another sidles up, showing a cellphone photograph of a truck’s bumper sticker: “Don’t Blame Me — I voted for the White Guy.”

“How about that?” he says. “You ever see anything funny as that?”

Another man approached and politely said: “The Irish were bred with the African slaves, you know? Even the Irish, we were slaves. At some point, you just have to get over it.”

Dusk falls softly in Mississippi, the gloaming comes on and then night falls hard. Orange fires burn after midnight from a sawmill plant in hill country. Mist holds above the river.

The voices of Mississippi echo in these hours.

There’s Robert Khayat, the former chancellor at Ole Miss who single-handedly got the tens of thousands of fans to stop flying the Confederate flag at football games — by banning sticks inside the stadium. Could the state actually change its flag?

“That’d be a tough one,” he says.

Then Derrick Johnson, head of the state chapter of the NAACP: “The problem is not so much the flag as the mind-set it represents.”

Finally, there comes the soft Southern accent of David Sansing, Mississippi’s preeminent historian, now professor emeritus of history at the University of Mississippi.

“Mississippians do not study their past,” he says, “they absorb it.”

More faintly, “We’re a strange group.”

Fainter still, fading away now, talking about Mississippi’s eternal attitude toward the rest of the world: “We don’t really need you to like us.”

(Neely Tucker. “In Mississippi, defenders of state’s Confederate-themed flag dig in.” The Washington Post. August 18, 2015.)

Please read Neely Tucker's entire article by clicking here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/mississippi-resists-calls-to-change-its-confederate-themed-flag/2015/08/18/cd590924-41d3-11e5-846d-02792f854297_story.html .



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