State Flag Should Not Be Point of Contention

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That certainly seems to the case when in comes to theConfederate Battle Flag, which more and more is becoming a point ofcontention between some blacks and some whites in Mississippi as itflies in the left corner of the state flag.

Here are the facts as I understand them:

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Some blacks see the flag as a symbol of slavery.

Some whites see the flag as a symbol of their Southernheritage.

Some politicans, both black and white, see the flag as a way toget their names in the newspaper or their faces on television.

The biggest battle is being waged in Jackson, which seems tohave cornered the market on megalomaniacal politicians. Here’s arecap:

On Feb. 29, the state flag was reported missing from the JacksonCity Council chambers, just after Councilman Kenneth Stokesthreatened to remove it himself if the city council did not vote totake it down.

On March 1, Councilman Stokes admitted taking the flag and saidhe and other blacks found it offensive.

On March 28, the Jackson City Council voted not to replace themissing state flag, opting instead to fly only the Jackson andAmerican flags in the chambers.

On March 29 in the Mississippi Legislature, where severalproposals to change the state flag — including one to replace theConfederate emblem with a magnolia — have died this session,several lawmakers expressed their displeasure with the Jacksonboard’s action.

Rep. John Reeves, R-Jackson, called the move ”a rude slap inthe face of the people of Mississippi, all people.”

Now, it is expected that the flag vote will be used against theJackson officials when issues regarding the city are up forlegislative consideration.

Regardless of which side you’re on, this is certainly an issuethat’s getting too much of everyone’s attention in a state thatalready has more than enough unsolved problems.

I look at it this way . . .

What would it hurt for the state to adopt a new flag? The designof the current banner was adopted on Feb. 7, 1894, and this iscertainly not the same Mississippi of 106 years ago.

Nothing gets a Mississippian’s ‘dander up’ quicker than forsomebody to say we are behind the times, yet some of us cling tothe past. Why not adopt a flag that shows what we hope for thefuture instead of what our ancestors endured in the 1800s?

On the other hand . . .

The past is the past, and we can’t change it, but that doesn’tmean we should forget it either.

If the Confederate banner will remind us of what we’ve overcome;remind us that all Mississippians are now granted equal protectionunder the law . . .

Remind us that all Mississippians now have the right to vote inlocal, state and federal elections . . .

Remind us that equal educational opportunities are now offeredto all Mississippi children . . .

Remind us of those who struggled, of those who foughttooth-and-nail, of those whose lives were sacrificed in order togain those equal rights . . .

Remind us of how far we still have to go to ensure thateducational opportunities offered to Mississippi children at leastequal those offered to children in other states . . .

Remind us that poverty and ignorance are color blind and thattough fights must still be fought to overcome both . . .

Remind us that we must fight that fight together, and that as astate divided along racial lines we are nothing . . .

I say fly it every day.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, send faxes to 833-6714, or e-mail to’d love to hear from you.