Mississippi, along with six other states, will recognize April as Confederate Heritage Month. On April 26, Mississippi will join four other states in observation of a state holiday known as Confederate Memorial Day.
We also note that Mississippi observes Robert E. Lee Day as a state holiday on the same day as Martin Luther King Day, as odd and inappropriate coupling as you are ever likely to encounter.
Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day were established by the Legislature, while Confederate Heritage Month is made each year by a proclamation of the Governor.
We are hard-pressed to understand the value of any of them, but we do not doubt the damage each does to the reputation of our state.
Lee’s connection to the state is tenuous if not outright non-existent. We cannot think of any contribution he made to the people of Mississippi that should warrant a state holiday in his name.
Likewise, Confederate Heritage Day is a relic of a regrettable era, celebrating Mississippi at its absolute worst. Gov. Tate Reeves, like his predecessors, says in the annual proclamation that Confederate Heritage Month is time to reflect on our Confederate Heritage. We wonder, though, what Confederate heritage almost four-in-10 Mississippians, the black population, have to reflect on.
It’s embarrassing. Gov. Reeves knows that. It’s no accident that of all the state proclamations he has issued, Confederate Heritage Month is the only one that isn’t posted on the Governor’s official website and is not announced by a press release. He does it in secret because he’s ashamed to do it in public.
As for the Robert E. Lee and Confederate Memorial Day observations, the Legislature could end both at any time.
But it hasn’t. The reason given most often is that legislators fear the wrath of the voters. Voters may not be as backward in their thinking as legislators assume them to be. In November, Mississippians approved a new state flag by a 3-to-1 margin, replacing the Jim Crow-era flag and its prominent Confederate imagery. It was a clear message that most Mississippians want to look forward, not back.
And what of Confederate Memorial Day? We already have a memorial day set aside for fallen soldiers and see no reason why our Confederate dead are entitled to special distinction above every other conflict in which our sons and daughters have participated.
It’s time to leave behind this glorification of the Confederacy, once and for all. The Legislature and the Governor could achieve this before spring.