Mississippi – the last state that still has a Confederate battle emblem on its state flag – has offered up somewhat of a compromise.
Civil rights activists and other leftists argue anything with Confederate imagery is symbolic of slavery and too closely linked with a racist past while others argue one can separate the legacy of slavery from the symbolism itself.
Some want the flag changed, others want it to stay the same.
So one Republican lawmaker has a compromise: Two flags. One with the emblem, one without.
Greg Snowden the speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives – which is dominated by Republicans – has sponsored House Bill 372, designed to settle the issue once and for all. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Business groups, black activists and others have pushed for years to have the Confederate battle emblem—white stars set on a blue X against a red background—removed from the state flag. Some see it as a symbol of slavery and segregation, while others argue it makes businesses reluctant to locate in the economically challenged state of about 2.9 million people.
Flag supporters consider the banner, which has flown since 1894, as a tribute to ancestors who fought in the Civil War. They point to a state referendum in 2001 in which voters overwhelmingly chose to keep the current flag.
The “two-flag” proposal has been sent to committee for review. It would have to pass a vote before it headed to a full vote in the House and is one of several proposals being considered by government leaders to resolve the flag issue.
Gov. Phil Bryant – a Republican – wouldn’t comment on the issue but in the past he said he was in favor of a statewide referendum on the issue.
This isn’t the first bill on the flag issue that Snowden has offered, but he said this one is a compromise and “a step toward at least some transition.”
Yet the plan hasn’t found support among activists on either side of the issue. The state NAACP is opposed, as is the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a heritage group, which has raised $100,000 to fight any changes to the current flag and its status.
The Confederate battle emblem was once ubiquitous across the South as a symbol of the region. But sensibilities have changed in the nation’s most populous region, in part due to a large influx of migrants from northern states, and political battles over the flag have erupted.
Most major cities in Mississippi refuse to fly the flag – including the state capitol in Jackson.
At the University of Mississippi, they refuse to fly the flag as well. This month, police in Tupelo took down the state flag.
Snowden’s plan would allow the current flag, but add another state historic flag, bearing an image of a flowering magnolia tree, as an alternative. Both would be “of equal status and dignity in representing the State of Mississippi, and each design may be flown individually as the official flag or they may be flown together,” according to his bill.
What do you think? Is this the right move? The state seems to be suffering economically from all the backlash – what would you do?