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Mississippi Should Let Voters Decide, and Take Down the Confederate Flag Right Now

If the current Mississippi flag flew only by tradition until 2001, then it can be changed by a new tradition, then ratified by voters afterward. Why not?

Georgia went through this convulsion back in the early 2000s. The 1956 flag incorporated the stars & bars, then in 2001, the “Barnes flag” flew for two years, and in 2003, the legislature approved a referendum to let the voters decide. They did in 2004 and we have the current, boring, Georgia state flag sans confederate symbols.

Mississippi could skip to the end here and let voters decide. In fact, they should. There’s pressure from Walmart, which has removed all Mississippi state flags from their stores, and now the Mississippi Baptist Association has joined in criticizing the state flag for its incorporation of confederate battle flag elements.

“We believe it’s the right thing to do, and is consistent with Walmart’s position to not sell merchandise with the Confederate flag from stores and online sites, as part of our commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all of our customers in the communities we serve,” company spokeswoman Anne Hatfield said.

Two big Mississippi forces — Baptists and Walmart — criticize the state flag and its Confederate emblem, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2020

As the last state using the stars & bars, Mississippi is behind the times. When the Baptists come out and condemn it, calling it “a moral issue,” it’s time to change.

“While some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of our state sees it as a relic of racism and a symbol of hatred,” the Baptist group said in a statement. “The racial overtones of this flag’s appearance make this discussion a moral issue.”

In 2001, Mississippi voters chose to keep the current design. Much has changed since then. Gov. Tate Reeves agrees that the people should decide.

However, an interesting bit of history gives the state some permission to change the design before a vote. After all, they did it before for 94 years.

In 2000, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the flag lacked official status because legislators didn’t include the design when they updated other state laws in 1906. That meant the Confederate-themed design had been used for nearly a century by tradition rather than by law. Then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, appointed a 17-member commission to study flag design in 2000 and to make recommendations to the Legislature.

If the current Mississippi flag flew only by tradition until 2001, then it can be changed by a new tradition, then ratified by voters afterward. Why not? Just take it down.

I say they have a contest, and let (serious) people and artists submit designs, then decide which ones they want to offer to voters. Put the flags on the ballot (minus the stars & bars), then let them vote for the one they want.

In the meantime, take down the confederate emblem and fly something boring. Like Georgia has.

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