Today I have an op-ed at The Washington Post about the recent actions of the Mississippi Legislature to redesign the state flag.
In a development that many Mississippians had longed for but never really expected to happen in our lifetimes, the state’s House and Senate on Saturday began the process of changing the flag adopted in 1894 as a backlash against Reconstruction. The way has been cleared for legislation, which Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has said he would sign, to introduce a new state flag that, finally, would represent all Mississippians.
Some would say that this action doesn’t really mean much, especially given the very real problems of racial injustice the nation faces, crystallized by the recent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Skeptics might suggest that Mississippi’s move is just about a symbol. I understand that sentiment, but would suggest that symbols matter, too – especially when those symbols point not toward heaven but toward hell.
The symbols matter, especially for a people as rooted as those of us blessed to be born and raised in Mississippi. We know what it is to immediately recognize a line by William Faulkner or Eudora Welty or Natasha Trethewey or Jesmyn Ward and to know, “That’s from one of us.” We know what it is to hear a piece of music from a Robert Johnson or an Elvis Presley or a Tammy Wynette or a B.B. King and know, “This is from one of us.” Being free to embrace all of what Mississippi has to give to the world – while being free to lament all that is awful that has come from our state – is symbolism that points beyond itself, to the possibility of a new day.
You can read the rest here.