Our View: A lot of talk about the state flag

 

 

 

What does Mississippi's state flag and the weather have in common? 

 

In both cases, people complain about it, but nobody ever does anything about it. 

 

It's been almost four years since white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot to death nine church members during a Bible study. 

 

That event pricked the conscience of America - well, some of it at any rate. The South Carolina Legislature voted quickly to remove the Confederate Flag - which was featured prominently in numerous photos of Roof prior to the shooting - from its Capitol grounds. Retailers announced they would no longer stock the flag. 

 

In Mississippi, the only state to incorporate the Confederate flag into its state flag, there was some support for changing the flag, including Sen. Roger Wicker. 

 

But there was resistance, too. And an awful lot of foot-dragging. 

 

Gov. Phil Bryant, who has proclaimed April as Confederate Heritage Month each year since he took office, deftly danced around the issue, saying that any decision to change the flag should be made be voters, not legislators. He pointed out that in 2001, voters had already settled the argument, voting 2-1 along racial lines to retain the flag. 

 

That argument is weakened by the Legislature's own actions. In 2011, the same year Bryant was elected Governor, the state handily defeated a "personhood" amendment, which would have cleared the way for the state to put further restrictions on abortion. 

 

But Bryant and the Legislature did not apply the same standard to that issue that it did to the flag. Twice, the Legislature, with Bryant's enthusiastic support, passed abortion laws that restrict abortion first after 20 weeks and, just this session, at the point where a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which is about six weeks. 

 

So much for leaving it to the people. 

 

In each session since 2015, bills have been filed to change the state flag. House Speaker Phillip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have made sure none of those bills ever saw the light of day. 

 

The argument was always that the flag issue would be presented to the voters. Bryant suggested it would be on the ballot this November. It won't be, of course. 

 

It's all talk. 

 

On the campaign trail, candidates will grapple with the question. Some, such as attorney general candidate Andy Taggart, say it's well past time for a new flag. Others avoid the question as best they can. 

 

Mississippians often complain about the bum rap our state gets from people around the country. We're the butt of too many jokes. Sure, we've had our bad moments, but things have changed. We aren't the "old Mississippi." 

 

Outsiders are trying to ruin our reputation. 

 

Really? Look at the flag: That's our reputation, one we have built for ourselves and still stubbornly cling to. 

 

The state flag, with its homage to the Confederacy, still flies over our government buildings. 

 

Nothing changes.

 

 

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