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MS State Flag and Racial Reconciliation

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MS State Flag and Racial Reconciliation

Ric Stewart

Rev. Gabe Swann, Pastor, Church Arise Moderator, CBF MS

Rev. Gabe Swann, Pastor, Church Arise Moderator, CBF MS

There have been many things in this nation’s past that have been lawful that are not ethically nor morally right.  Slavery was a law; it was not right.  Segregation was a law that was not right.  Abortion is legally right and morally wrong.  It is the fervor I have seen from people about defending this particular law while ignoring others, which concerns me.

The law says that the Mississippi State Flag must fly at its schools and public places.  But that flag is a great catalyst of controversy.  Our country has long had a racial divide.  We can say things like “I am not prejudice” and “I didn’t own slaves or oppress anyone.”  These statements do not change the fact that there is a racial divide.  Many African Americans believe that the confederate battle flag is a symbol of the oppression their ancestors bore. 

Regardless of the debate that the Civil War was fought for states’ rights, or that the confederate battle flag didn’t represent slavery, the flag has been linked in the minds of most to a nation that was steeped in slavery and a war that was fought in part to maintain slavery.  In addition to that, many reprehensible organizations have used the “rebel flag” as a representation of white supremacy.

Having said all these things, what a majority of white people in the state of MS are saying when they support the current MS state flag is that they don’t care that a vast majority of African Americans not only don’t support the flag but are hurt by its flying.

Our nation has a history that my parents’ generation can still recall of segregation and oppression.  My whole point is this; why?  Why is it so important for us to support this flag?  Why can’t we concede that this flag does not represent Mississippi?  It may represent “white Mississippi.”  It may represent “old Mississippi.”  It may have much rich tradition.  Does it represent all of Mississippi?

If we are all about bridging the racial divide in our nation, as we should be, couldn’t we concede that this flag is a point of division and put it down?  If we want things to get better, shouldn’t we reach across the aisle and try to come to an understanding instead of beating people over the head with our current state flag?  I know that this is a polarizing issue and that probably a majority of people in Mississippi would vote to keep the flag.  It is disappointing that instead of attempting racial reconciliation, we are so bent on trying to make sure no one “takes our heritage from us.”   

I don’t think that fighting to keep the confederate battle flag as part of the Mississippi flag is worth the damage it is doing.  Being proud of our heritage is great.  But our heritage is so much richer than that flag.  It is steeped in its people. White, Black, and Native American.  I want a flag that represents the diversity of our culture, reflects the depth of our struggle, and makes us proud to look at our MS capitol building and our schools and say “there is a symbol that represents my Mississippi.”   

We have so long been a bastion of racial division, what if we suddenly became a beacon of racial reconciliation.  Those are my thoughts.