Mississippi will take down its racist state flag. Yay?
Thirty years after the Confederacy fell, John Marshall Stone, then the governor of Mississippi and a former Confederate officer, signed a law adopting the state's new flag. It was made official in `1894 and included three horizontal stripes as a throwback to the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy along with the Confederate Battle Flag in the top left corner. Finally, over the weekend, state lawmakers voted for the Mississippi state flag to change, with the icon of the Confederacy to be removed. While the move is being celebrated, it may be too little too late.
On Sunday, Mississippi's state legislature passed a bill to remove the Confederate emblem from their flag. The move was historic given that Mississippi is the last remaining state to have Confederate insignia so boldly displayed on its flag — though other symbols of the Confederacy can still be found in a number of state flags like in Alabama's and Georgia's.
Notably, not every lawmaker voted to scrap the flag. Per CNN, the bill cleared the state House with a 91-23 vote and the state Senate with a 37-14 vote. Under the legislation, a commission will have to design a new flag that nixes the Confederate emblem, which voters can then weigh in on in November.
It didn't take too long after the bill passed for the flag to come down. Local news station WLBT tweeted a video of the flag's removal, writing that it happened "minutes" after a historic vote.
Mississippi's state flag's removal comes in the midst of civil uprisings across the country. While those who still wave Confederate symbols claim it's a matter of Southern pride, there's nothing proud about it for Black Southerners. After all, the establishment of the Confederacy itself was never about anything more than preserving slavery and white supremacy.
But, the flag's removal didn't just come about because of politicians. While people have long called for the flag to come down, Mississippi State football player Kylin Hill helped shift the tide.
When Mississippi's current governor Tate Reeves tweeted about a floating proposal to make a second state flag, Hill tweeted in response, "Either change the flag or I won't be representing this state anymore and I meant that. I'm tired." Hill is a star running back on the school's football team and would've been a top-10 running back prospect had he entered this year's NFL draft, per The Clarion Ledger.
NBC Sports reported that after Hill's tweet, the NCAA extended its ban on holding sponsored events in Mississippi until the flag was changed. Other organizations like the Southeastern Conference also announced that they would no longer hold conference-sponsored championships or tournaments in the state.
At nearly 38%, Mississippi has the highest percentage of Black residents in the country. And while there is not a single state in this country that has not participated in white supremacy or genocide against Black people, Mississippi's history in this area is particularly well-documented.
The unfortunate reality of the United States is that money talks. While the discomfort of Mississippi's individual Black residents alone was not enough to change the flag, the potential economic ramifications from sports organizations pulling out of events or top athletes like Hill threatening to no longer play was finally enough to get the flag to come down.
There is no reason for any state to fly symbols of the Confederacy — whether blatant insignias or quieter throwbacks. But ultimately, taking down the flag doesn't change the people and institutions who were comfortable working under it.