Mississippians deserve a state flag of which all its citizens can be proud

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Once again, the issue of the Mississippi state flag has come up for debate.

This time the call to change the flag came from one of the state’s leaders — Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.

In a speech at a meeting of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, Wicker, who denounced the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., during a white nationalist rally, said a new state flag without the Confederate battle emblem would be more unifying.

“I hate to use a tragedy like this, a criminal act of murder, to advance policy,” Wicker said, “But certainly they have no right to be using our state flag as a symbol of white supremacy … It would be more unifying if we put this Mississippi flag in a museum and replaced it with something that was more unifying. That is still my position.”

He’s right.

The Confederate battle emblem has been adopted as a symbol for white supremacy groups from the Ku Klux Klan to the American Nazi Party and other radical hate groups in the United States spreading their gospel of hate and ignorance against blacks, Jews, Hispanics and other immigrants who live and share the same freedoms as any other citizen.

And it’s ironic that Mississippi, which is trying to change its image away from the perception of being a backward area where racism and bigotry still exists, would refuse to remove one of the more outward symbols exemplifying the exact negative image the state is trying to change.

It makes one wonder if our state leaders are really as serious about changing Mississippi’s image as they would lead us to believe.

There have been previous attempts to change the flag. One was a referendum in 2000 to remove the battle emblem from the state flag.

More recently, District 55 Rep. Oscar Denton, D-Vicksburg, filed a bill to change the flag, which failed in committee.

We in Mississippi are proud of our history, as we should be. But we must also realize that some of the symbols of that history, like the one on our flag that flies from flag poles from Tupelo to Waveland, are no longer acceptable.

If we are serious about improving our image and showing the world we are serious about it, the first place to start is fluttering over our heads. It’s time to change the flag.