For others, the flag stirs up images of hatred

Published 12:52 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Mississippi state flag flies in front of the Old Court House Museum Monday. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

The Mississippi state flag flies in front of the Old Court House Museum Monday. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Yolande Robbins tries her best to avoid the Mississippi flag. The flood of emotions the sight of it brings is too much.

“I consciously disregard it. I don’t look at it. I look away from it. You can’t help but see it in a number of innocent or innocuous settings. But I simply do not acknowledge it,” said Robbins, founder of the Jacqueline House African-American Museum.

Robbins said she couldn’t remember a time she didn’t feel the state flag with its Confederate imagery needed to go.

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“I know that it was a symbol of resistance and hatred and hostility,” Robbins said.

Debate over the Mississippi flag and the Confederate battle flag cross it contains has raged since a 21-year-old accused killer in South Carolina took photos of himself with the flag before killing nine people inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston S.C.

The renewed call to remove the Confederate battle flag from public buildings around the country and revamp the Mississippi flag is long overdue, Robbins said.

“I absolutely feel that there is no justification, there is no reason for retaining that flag,” Robbins said.

In 2001, Robbins was among the most vocal local supporters of changing the state flag — an amalgamation of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and the First National Confederate Flag. But the new flag proposal was defeated by a nearly 2-1 margin in a statewide referendum.

“I’ve never accepted that it was a symbol of pride. It’s always been a symbol of slavery,” Robbins said.

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. was a member of the state commission who pushed for the re-designed flag in 2001, and he’s renewing his call for a new symbol for the Magnolia State.

“I don’t think we need to go back to a ballot. I think it’s time for the legislature to not punt it and to take a vote on it up or down when they come back into session in January,” Flaggs said. “I really believe that based upon where we are in history and the economic circumstances around it, we have a better chance changing it in the Legislature. It only takes a simple majority vote.”

Changing the flag would not limit its use on historical markers or in other historical contexts, Flaggs said.

“It’s my prayer that the flag does not divide us. It should unite us and getting a flag that represents all of us in 2015 would be an appropriate thing in the state of Mississippi,” he said.