Let’s shake the past and the stereotypes for the sake of our future

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Give State Rep. Oscar Denton and Collins resident Elliott Brown credit for the courage to want to make a difference.

Vicksburg’s Denton, D-District 55, filed a bill in the Legislature to change the state flag and remove the Confederate battle flag that adorns its upper left corner.

Brown designed a new flag featuring the magnolia, the state flower, as its centerpiece.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The battle over the state flag has been raging for years. It reached a peak in 2001, when Mississippians by a large majority voted to keep the present flag.

That was before Dylan Roof, a white man, shot and killed nine during a Bible study meeting at a predominately African American church in Charleston, S.C., and was later seen in photos waving the Confederate battle flag.

Since Roof’s actions, the Confederate battle flag has been removed from South Carolina public buildings, and in Mississippi, two of the state’s major universities, the University of Southern Mississippi and The University of Mississippi, whose teams are nicknamed “Rebels,” have removed the state flag. So have many cities and counties across the state.

The objection to the battle flag symbol is the perception by some who see it as a bitter reminder of the oppression of the state’s African Americans during slavery and a symbol of racism and hatred.

And slavery, according to Mississippi’s articles of secession, was the reason the state left the union in 1861: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.”

It’s that impression Denton and Brown, through his new flag design, want to eliminate.

The great-great-grandson of a Confederate soldier, Brown says he is proud of his southern heritage, but he wants to “move forward and to present a good image especially to those outside Mississippi, I think we can do better with a symbol that represents unity and our position as a member of the United States, which I’m most proud of. And we do need the cooperation of those outside Mississippi. We need their business.”

Like all of us, Brown wants to see Mississippi grow, thrive and improve in the future with opportunities for our children and a strong economy.

One of the ways of doing that is by eliminating a symbol that to some reminds them of a dark era in our history and still encourages the stereotypes all of us in the south want to eliminate.

His flag does that. It focuses on an image that promotes what our state really is known for — hospitality and friendliness.

Whether his design is accepted or not, our state flag must change if we are to move ahead.

No one wants to change history, but neither should we be bound to it by an image that is out of touch with the future.