Here’s a shocker: The legislature in Mississippi can’t find a majority to vote to get rid of the confederate hate emblem on its flag. Tuesday was the deadline for committees in the state’s legislature to act on the bills, and all 12 of the bills to remove the symbol or change the design of the flag died along with hundreds of others.
Thinking people in the state haven’t been taking the flag fight lying down by any means. Activist Sharon Brown and others around the state demanded Mississippi pass a bill mandating a flag redesign by next year at a “One Flag for All” rally last week. “It’s time for Mississippi to embrace a new flag that represents unity and progress,” Brown told BusinessWire in the build-up ahead of the rally. More than 200 people attended the One Flag for All Rally.
Not to be outdone (even though historically they’ve already been outdone once), Confederate groups held their own rally in support of the current flag. Another 200 people participated in that rally, where red meat was thrown regularly at those in attendance. Dozens of rally-goers carried “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and were treated to regular pronouncements from organizers on loudspeakers demonizing abortion, same-sex marriage and the Obama administration’s new firearms policy initiatives.
One Flag for All does face an uphill battle. Mississippi’s flag has featured the confederate emblem since 1894. In 2001, voters chose to keep the emblem on the flag’s upper left corner. While the state has suggested compromises, they have so far been as ignorant and insulting as the flag itself. One such proposal suggested the state adopt two “separate but equal” flags (yes, you read that right): one with the current emblem in the upper left corner and the other with a Magnolia tree in the center.
Mississippi isn’t the only place in the south to come under intense pressure to remove confederate flags from public spaces since the Charleston church massacre. Last summer the South Carolina state house removed the rebel battle flag from its premises after pressure following the shooting, but even that took the governor demanding the flag be removed and an activist climbing up and removing the flag for anything to be done.
The flag fight has tested allegiances and relationships across the state, bringing civil rights era tensions once again to the forefront of public debate. Most of Mississippi’s new majority population sees the flag as a symbol of hate and oppression, outliers not withstanding. But there are plenty of holdouts; an online petition demanding the governor keep the flag has reached nearly 15,000 signatures, and a Facebook group in favor of keeping the flag has the same amount of members.
And in this particular battle the holdouts emerged victorious. But One Flag for All isn’t giving up the fight. Their website is flush with church endorsements to take down the flag (you can also sign up to be a marcher there), their own Facebook group has the support of several thousand members, and they remain dedicated to change the flag despite the recent setback.
For Mississippi, the civil war didn’t end in 1865; it’s still going strong as you read this. The resurgence of racism stronger than ever this election cycle has been felt especially hard in Mississippi, where racist encounters and hate crimes keep happening. The flag fight represents an opportunity: progressives in Mississippi have finally had enough and are risking violent retaliation for demanding change. Part of winning back the south is supporting these freedom fighters today and every day until the flag is removed.
Featured image via Flickr