State flag being removed in the City of Laural (Image courtesy of the City of Laurel)
As more people begin to make their feelings public regarding changing the state flag, several public officials are speaking out. Groups are making their thoughts known and some Mississippi towns are even taking action. Here is just a quick snapshot of recent activity.
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann
I rise before you today to discuss the flag of our State.
This discussion is not prompted by fear of loss of economic development, although virtually every economic developer in our State has indicated opportunities and employment of our citizens will be adversely affected. Further, it is not prompted by the impending loss of student athletes’ ability to compete for championships, although that has occurred. Further, I recognize many of our citizens are proud of their individual ancestors, some of whom fought in battle 150 years ago. I am one of those citizens.
While important, these issues are not controlling.
What is compelling to me is the future of our children and grandchildren. They will learn together, they will work together, and they will worship together. Those who wish to fly our flag should not be typecast in any fashion. Similarly, those who are offended by our flag are sincere in their beliefs. The physical acknowledgments of our history are our guideposts and buoys which help us to avoid reefs in the future. Destruction of history fails to change it and, over time, opens us to repeat it.
However, now we must look to a flag for our collective future to be flown over our collective assets. I, like the majority of Mississippians, am open to changing our current flag.
In my mind, our flag should bear the Seal of the Great State of Mississippi and state “In God We Trust.” I am open to bringing all citizens together to determine a banner for our future.
Some distrust the will of the citizens and fear the public dialogue which comes with a ballot. I am not one of those people. Changes in our hearts and minds arise from conversation, and in our Republic by the finality of the ballot box.
However, the Legislature in 1894 selected the current flag and the Legislature should address it today. Failing to do so only harms us and postpones the inevitable.
State Auditor Shad White
I was asked about my opinion of our state flag. Here it is:
If there were a statewide vote to remove the Confederate imagery from our flag, I would vote to remove it. I understand not everyone agrees. I have members of my own family who agree with me and members who do not, and all are people I love. And I’m not going to tell anyone else how to feel about it. The last thing we need is another politician lecturing others about what to do. I’m just telling you what I think—that we can have a flag that is more unifying than the one we have now.
Congratulations to the Mississippi Baptist Convention, Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the Business & Industry Political Education Committee, and other organizations for standing on the right side of history by calling for Mississippi to change our flag.
Attorney General Lynn Fitch
I have proudly lived my life in Mississippi and have raised children in this great state. I could travel the world over and not find people who are as kind and generous of spirit as Mississippians. It is my personal belief that it is time for us to change our state flag to reflect the love, compassion, and conviction of our people. The addition of the motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ from our state seal is the perfect way to demonstrate who we are to all. We must always remember our past – honor the good and learn from the bad. A new flag offers us a pathway forward, moving together as a people toward greater opportunities for economic growth and academic enhancement. As your Attorney General, I will always defend the will of the people, and I encourage all Mississippians to consider the value of standing unified behind a flag that tells the world that we trust in our God and follow His message of love and mercy.
Mississippi Economic Council
The Mississippi Economic Council has a long-standing position that the state flag should be changed.
The presence of the Confederate Battle Flag as a component of the 1894 flag is offensive to many, not representative of all Mississippians, and perpetuates negative stereotypes of our state. Regardless of its origins, and despite some opinions that the emblem honors history and heritage, the reality is the battle flag has become a global symbol of prejudice and hatred.
MEC feels strongly that the adoption of a new flag is a timely and high profile action that would improve Mississippi’s image, advance a new narrative about our state, and set the stage to enhance economic opportunities and improve quality of life in a fair and inclusive manner for every Mississippian.
City of Laurel
The current flag is harmful to Mississippi’s image and reputation for those outside our state and is hurtful to many fellow Mississippians. MEC encourages state leaders to take action to change the flag.
On Tuesday, Mayor Johnny Magee, in the rotunda of Laurel City Hall, signed an Executive Order to immediately remove The Mississippi State Flag from Laurel City Hall as well as facilities owned and operated by The City of Laurel.
Representative Jill Ford – District 73
Today is the day.
I have been wondering when the feeling would come over me: to break my silence on my position about the state flag. I’ve been telling myself that this is a no-win situation so why even post anything. Whatever I say will and can be used against me – almost certainly knowing I will lose the respect of some of my family members, colleagues, and constituents, but hopefully not their love.
My son, Patton, just sent me the following article written by Ligon Duncan and told me that his words would be like salve to my soul. And they were. Beautifully written: not condemning but convicting. And there is a difference. I encourage you to read the article by Dr. Duncan. I pray it will bring you peace as it did for me.
Patton and Crockett have watched me ponder and pray over the last couple weeks on how best to lead during this crisis. Patton, in particular, has felt the heaviness upon me. It has been such a blessing to get daily texts from him checking on his mama. His willingness to speak hard truth and remind me of the fact that I now have four grandchildren that do not need to carry this into the next generation, but to lay it at the feet of Jesus and let the healing begin for everyone in our state.
Patton, I love you and thank you for walking with me during the long family conversations and helping me to understand that my willingness to step out and speak up will not cause any embarrassment to my great, great grandfather for fighting for the Confederacy, but will only honor him by conserving any semblance of state sovereignty (perhaps the root issue for most Confederates). I have been so torn knowing my great, great grandfather went into battle at the age of 15 to fight for a cause that few teenagers today even care to understand. I have been scared to allow myself to share this fact with you for fear of hate filled comments. But, fear and faith cannot reside in the same vessel.
It pains me greatly to watch people who are legitimately angry all over our country display that anger illegitimately by destroying the property of other people, by defacing monuments of soldiers, and by having historical destinations shut down. It would be a shame for any flag to be flown in that shadow. It would also be a shame for us to allow them to continue this unlawful act.
For many Mississippians, the idea of a state flag is sacred. If there’s even a small chance that a new flag will unite our citizens so that we can turn our focus to legislation that directly impacts the prosperity of every Mississippi family, then count me in. But let’s make sure we fly that flag remembering the people who have gone before us to preserve our liberties so we can decide these kinds of matters and not have them decided for us.
Having said that, our current flag was chosen and adopted by the Democratic Party in Mississippi. Again in 2001, a Democratic Mississippi decided against a new flag. But there have been some good changes since 2001. For example, since 2012, Republicans have had control over the state. And I’m confident that this new Republican Mississippi can strive for efforts of reconciliation, not retaliation, and not just across party lines, but as a means to remove any racial, religious, or economic divides. I am reminded today that the year I spent traveling around the State of Mississippi praying over every county seat for racial barriers to be broken in the spiritual realm could be manifesting itself here on this earth as God uses me as a Representative in your State House. After all, my campaign slogan was: “Building our Mississippi for your grandchildren and mine”.
Now, I do not know what will happen in the Legislature this week. I do not know if there will be enough votes to suspend the rules – or if there will be a bill written in such a way that we can all agree upon – or if we will even take up this issue.
But one thing I do know for sure:
Mississippi, it is time to respectfully retire our flag with the most elaborate memorial service you have every seen. One that would bring dignity and honor to all of our ancestors. And one that I would be happy to contribute.
Anticipating our bright future, Jill