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Sensible Mississippians must step forward now

What a shame. What a terrible shame.

That was my reaction when I finished reading a story Fridaymorning on the front page of The Clarion-Ledger, thestate’s largest newspaper. It was headlined in big, boldletters:

Jeers, shouts, hecklers mar

turbulent state flag meeting

The headline was above a photograph of a black woman,identified as Sandra Jaribu Hill, a lawyer and director of theCenter of Constitutional Rights in Greenville. She was screaminginto a microphone.

It didn’t take much to figure out that the latest in aseries of meetings to discuss changing the state flag was not afriendly discussion. This particular meeting was held in Moorhead,in the Delta.

As in the previous two meetings, those in favor ofkeeping the current banner, with its controversial Confederate flagin one corner, out-numbered those who favor a newflag.

. . . Time and time again, people in the audienceheckled, jeered and booed speakers they disagreed with . ..

David Jordan, a black senator who represents theGreenwood area in the Mississippi Senate, urged the flag be changedto be more representative of the state’s entire populace, which nowincludes more that one million blacks.

“Watermelon!” came an anonymous response from the mainlywhite audience.

When former Gov. William Winter, the chairman of theflag commission, attempted to restore order, he was chastised byflag supporter Jim Giles of Jackson.

. .”You’re gutless. You are worthy of being tarred andfeathered.” . . .

So this is what we’ve come to; this is how low we’vesunk.

According to Mr. Giles, the Mississippi flag represents”honor, integrity and courage . . . gallantry, character andduty.”

Does it?

Maybe so, but those attributes were certainly missingfrom Mr. Giles and his cohorts Thursday night.

People like Jim Giles disgust me.

For every step Mississippi takes forward, they attemptto pull us back two.

As this state has worked to tear down racial barriers,people like Jim Giles have worked to rebuild them.

It’s no wonder most of the world still looks on us asracist, ignorant, inbred, backwoods, redneck hicks. Some of us are,or at least don’t mind acting like it.

People like Sandra Jaribu Hill aren’t any better,either.

They’re stuck in the past, too, still blaming whites forwhatever problems befall the black community. For them, whites willnever be able to do enough to make up for transgressions of thepast.

I believe that most Mississippians are good, kind andsensible. Honor, integrity and courage do not know racial barriers.Neither do racism and stupidity.

It is these good, kind and sensible Mississippians whomust step forward now to help resolve the flag issue in a civilizedmanner.

The truly courageous and honorable Mississippians willhelp insure that all reasonable positions — either for or againstchanging the flag — are heard.

They will step forward to insure that Mississippidoesn’t step backward.

At least I hope they will.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven,Miss. 39602, send faxes to 833-6714, or e-mail tonlaster@telepak.net.