By: Kyle Hamrick
The first petition I ever signed was to remove the Confederate emblem from the Mississippi state flag. A friend posted a link on Facebook, and I ascribed my virtual signature in support. At last, I thought, Mississippi can finally let its wretched past be past.
In June, the 1894 Mississippi flag slid down the pole at the state capitol never to rise again. It bore the Confederate battle flag in its top left corner, the last state flag in the United States to do so. After 126 years, and scores of protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, the flag and its racist symbolism came down, and the search was on to find a new one.
In November, the people of Mississippi will have a chance to vote for a new state flag. They will choose to either accept the proposal of the governor’s flag search commission, or tell the commission to keep looking. Because Mississippi needs to move on into the future and because Mississippi needs a flag to represent its people, I suggest Mississippians should vote to accept the proposed flag as it is. I would vote myself, but I am from Alabama; therefore, I will leave the task to you.
On the proposed banner, 20 white stars surround a magnolia in bloom against a dark blue background bordered by red and gold columns. The stars represent Mississippi as the 20th state to join the Union. A golden star hangs above the magnolia and represents Mississippi’s Choctaw people.
Mississippi is called “The Magnolia State,” so it is fitting an official flag for this state should bear one. Mississippi was the 20th state to join the United States in 1817, and our national flag has a star for every state, so that symbolism works as well. In my opinion, everything about the proposed banner checks out.
I only object to the inclusion of the phrase, “In God We Trust.” To say that every Mississippian trusts in God is the same as saying every Mississippian wears his or her mask in public. My trust is in God, but I don’t speak for everyone – and neither should the governor.
Nevertheless, this flag is Mississippi’s best option. Mississippi must be allowed to move on from its status as a slave-holding state, a rebel state, and a segregationist state. Adopting the proposed flag as the official state flag in November is the first step of a long journey toward true reconciliation.
This does not mean that racism will cease to exist, that eyes previously blind to the reality of the Old South will open and see truth. This does not mean that Mississippi will be unified in an instant, that new people and new commerce will flood this state over a few days. But if that magnolia flag climbs up the silver pole in Jackson, catches the wind for the first time, and unfurls over the people it was made to represent, I believe it will be a lot easier to live in its shadow. Maybe then Mississippi will be ready to leave the past behind and boldly embrace what the future holds.