June 11, 2020 11:02:04 AM
Mississippi's state flag is back in the news again.
In the wake of recent events, with Americans from one end of the country to the other protesting racial injustice and police brutality against black citizens, a lot of people in our state and thinking -- and just hear me out -- that a state flag with a big Confederate flag in its canton may not be "a great look." Just a thought.
We've been having this debate for years and years. In 2001, voters chose to retain the flag by a 2-to-1 vote, but that hasn't ended the debate. After Confederate flag-loving Dylann Roof killed all those black people in Charleston, S.C., Confederate imagery has fallen out of fashion in most places. Heck, even Walmart decided to quit selling Confederate merchandise and this week NASCAR -- yes, NASCAR -- decided Confederate flags would no longer be allowed at its races and the U.S. Marine Corps has banned Confederate images on its bases.
Now, if Confederate imagery is too racist for NASCAR and the Marines, you have to wonder why we are even having this debate in Mississippi in 2020.
Is the flag offensive to black citizens? Is that a serious question? Ask yourself, "If I wanted to present one symbol that was sure to offend black people, what would it be?"
I think I've made my point.
Defenders of the flag, and there are many, say the flag isn't about trying to offend black people (that's just a side bonus, I guess), but remembering our history. Change the flag and you erase history, appears to be the argument.
Yet of all the things about our state that we should remember and enshrine, how is it that the one thing we honor above all others is our state's decision to secede from the union and fight for the right to own human beings like livestock?
To that, flag defenders argue that history can be good or bad and neither should be erased.
Well, a while back Uncle Frank got drunk, took off all his clothes and drove his John Deere tractor through the plate window of the hardware store, but nobody even thought of putting THAT in their Christmas newsletters.
It's possible to remember something without venerating it.
I don't know how successful the latest move to change our flag will be, but it's the best shot we've had in almost 20 years.
Although it may be premature, we ought to be thinking about what the new flag will look like. So far, the most popular alternative is "The Stennis Flag," designed by the granddaughter of Mississippi Sen. John Stennis. She's fought long and hard to have the current flag removed and designed an alternative. For her part, it's an effort to redeem the family name -- John Stennis was segregationist. Her intentions are good, but the optics are terrible -- replacing the flag with a flag bearing the name of a segregationist presents its own problems.
So, it might be a good idea to look at other options.
State flags generally don't get much attention. In fact, aside from the 10 states whose names are actually on their flag, the average person would find it difficult to identify more than two or three state flags, I bet.
Most of them are pretty boring. New Mexico's flag is cool, artistic. Maryland's flag looks like it was designed by somebody on an LSD trip. Other than that, state flags aren't much to look at.
So, if we're going to the trouble of changing the state flag, I think we should have something that makes people stand up and take notice (in a non-racist sort of way, for a change).
I believe I have come up with a design sure to knock it out of the park when it comes to attracting attention.
I am, by no means, an artist so I'll just describe my flag:
It is a simple white flag with black text that reads, "I'm With Stupid" and an arrow pointing left to right (toward Alabama).
I think that would generate the sort of attention that would make our state flag really grab the nation's attention. I think we can all agree that Alabama has it coming, for more reasons than we need to elaborate on.
I understand there could be unintended consequences. When the state flags of our nation are presented alphabetically in venues, the arrow would be pointing at Missouri.
But, hey, you can't please everybody.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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