In 2001 the citizens of the State of Mississippi adopted the current flag in a landslide state referendum. While the vote was essentially a referendum to adopt a new flag, it was actually to correct a legislative oversight in the constitution of 1906.
The new Mississippi constitution adopted in 1906 repealed all laws from the previous constitution of 1894 but inadvertently left out a provision for a state flag.
In essence, the state had no official flag for just shy of 100 years.
The flag is now the only state flag in the United States to carry any vestiges of the battle flag of the army of Northern Virginia which has come to be known as the flag of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War of 1861-1865. Georgia adopted a new flag in 2003.
I believe, without a doubt, it’s time to change the flag, but there are others who can and will make cases to keep the flag.
I sat with one of those men at Rotary on Thursday. We argued over the flag and I was probably a bit rude to him, but I respect both him and his opinion.
He’s a good man and has done a lot of work in the community and the world to make it a better place.
My argument has always been the flag is injurious to a large portion of our population. It’s a reminder of a time when their ancestors were sublimated to property.
He, like many others, might say the flag is a reminder of Mississippi’s past.
In his defense, he’s right. The portion of the flag owing allegiance to the CSA is indeed a reminder of Mississippi’s past.
In my opinion, it’s a horrible past. For four years Mississippi left the United States of America. The leaders of the state decided it was more important to hold people in slavery than to be a part of the United States. Some revisionist history will say the secession was about state’s rights, and it was. The state’s right in question was whether or not to hold slaves.
For the last 19 years, the Mississippians have officially flown a flag owing to that history.
Some would say the history has to be remembered so we aren’t doomed to repeat it.
The classroom is a great place to teach that history. An emblem on a flag flying over the state’s public buildings is not the place for such lessons.
For the rest of the nation, and I’ve lived in those other places, that Mississippi still flies such a flag just continues the stereotypes they have of us.
Believe me, those stereotypes aren’t good.
To many outside the state and region, Mississippi is living in a backwards past. They see the flag, the rankings in education and income and conflate those items.
We know that’s not true.
We know the state is warm and welcoming.
We know its people are kind and true.
We know this is where we want to be.
But we also know a state institution legitimizing the glorification of a war fought for slavery is just plainly wrong.
For Mississippi to grow and prosper, there has to be a willingness for people from outside the state to view it as a place they want to live and do business.
While it’s a single anecdote, I know for a fact the flag has been a deciding factor for a student athlete.
Jack Jackson was highly recruited wide receiver out of Moss Point in the early 1990s. He went on a recruiting visit to Ole Miss and saw the stands filled with waving rebel flags.
He chose the University of Florida that day because of those flags. He was an All-American and SEC player of the year in 1994.
Sure, it’s just a flag, but choosing to take a stand in favor of an item so virulent from a four-year history of the past more than 150 years ago seems to be a wasted effort.
Let’s be the hospitable, warm and welcoming people we are and choose for the positive in our state. There’s no reason to honor an ugly past.
Jon Alverson is proud to be the publisher and editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. Write to him at email@example.com or call him at 335-1155.