In the latest move by members on one side of the ever-increasing debate regarding the use of the Confederate emblem on state flags, several celebrities, business men and women, members of the community, and even SEC rival coaches all signed a letter published in the Clarion-Ledger requesting that the Confederate emblem be removed from the Mississippi state flag.
Mississippi remains the last state in the nation with the Confederate emblem flying over its capital. Although a 2001 vote to remove the emblem resulted in a 2 to 1 vote to keep the flag as is, many believe that 14 years is a long time and a lot has changed since 2001.
The debate over the Confederate emblem was most recently brought to the forefront following white supremacist Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine African-American members of a South Carolina church. Roof posted pictures of himself online burning an American flag and posing with the Confederate flag. In the wake of the massacre, Republican Alabama Governor Robert removed Confederate flags on the statehouse grounds and Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley successfully convinced lawmakers to to remove the Confederate flag flying over its state capital.
The letter published this morning included the signatures of John Grisham, Morgan Freeman, Jimmy Buffet, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, novelist Richard Ford, NBA Hall of Famer Bailey Howard, former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, MI business leader Jack Reed, Sr., football royalty Archie Manning, and even SEC rival coaches - Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.
The letter states that, “It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved. It’s a time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people.”
While the removal of the Confederate emblem from the state flag has many supporters, there are also those who are quite against the change. Greg Stewart, administrator of Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, points out that, “Rap and hip-hop artists use the [Confederate battle] flag so that kind of sucks the wind out of the ‘offensive’ argument.”
He further stated his belief that the only way the flag would be changed is if “a raw power move [in the legislature occurred] in January, and they have to hope the public is stupid enough to forget, which they’re not going to do.” If a change will ever occur, “it has to come from the people, otherwise it’s going to cause more problems than it solves.”
Also supporting a non-change in the flag is state Senator Melanie Sojourner. “The flag was no more the ‘source of horrible acts against mankind than a gun is the ‘source’ of someone’s death. The ‘source’ is the hatred and evil that resides in the hearts of some who live and have lived among us. Simply placing the blame on something that some see as a symbol only perpetuates the problem.”
Proponents of the change are just as passionate about their side of the debate. Democrat State Senator David Jordan reminds people that, “There were 4 million African-American slaves under this [Confederate] flag. To us, it’s just as bad as the swastika.”
At this time, the Mississippi governor does not plan on holding a special vote to decide the issue. Whether or not that changes remains to be seen.