Mississippi is about to change its state flag to erase a condemned Confederate battle emblem of racism.
Supporters of the flag have resisted efforts to change it for decades, but rapid developments in recent weeks have changed the dynamic on this issue in the state, which has a long history of systemic racism and has seen more lynchings by African-Americans. than any other state in recent times. XIX century and beginning of the XX.
As protests against racial injustice recently spread across the United States, including Mississippi, leaders of business, religion, education, and sports have spoken out vigorously against the state flag. They have urged lawmakers to drop the 126-year-old banner for one that better reflects the diversity of a state with a black population of 38%.
The State House voted to remove the current flag on Sunday, and the bill is now with the senators. A commission would design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and must have the words “In God We Trust”.
The House of Representatives and the Senate met on Saturday and took a big step: by two-thirds margins, they suspended legislative deadlines so that a bill could be presented. Spectators cheered as each chamber voted, and lawmakers seeking the change embraced.
“There are financial problems. There are problems related to soccer or whatever, “said Delbert Hosemann, a Republican lieutenant governor, on Saturday.” But this vote came from the heart. That makes it much more important. “
David Jordan, a Democratic senator who is African American, has lobbied for decades to change the flag. He smiled broadly after Saturday’s vote and said, “This is a metamorphosis.”
Mississippi has the last state flag with the Confederate battle emblem: a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. The flag has been divisive for generations. All of the state’s public universities have stopped flying, as have a growing number of cities and counties.
White supremacists in the Mississippi legislature established the state flag design in 1894 during the reaction to political power that African Americans obtained after the civil war.
In 2000, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the flag lacked official status. State laws were updated in 1906, and parts related to the flag were not pursued. Lawmakers established a flag election in 2001, and voters upheld the rebel-themed design.
Former Ole Miss basketball player Blake Hinson told his hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida News-Journal that the Mississippi flag played a role in his decision to transfer to the state of Iowa.
“It was time to go and leave Ole Miss,” Hinson said. “I am proud that I no longer represent that flag and that I am not associated with anything that represents the Confederation.”
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said for the first time Saturday that he would sign a bill to change the flag if the Republican-controlled Legislature sends him one.
Reeves and many other politicians have said that people should vote on flag design in other state elections. The new design, without the Confederate symbol, will be included on the ballot on November 3, but it will be the only option.
If a majority voting that day accepts the new design, it will become the state flag. If a majority rejects it, the commission will design a new flag using the same guidelines.
“I understand that many see the current flag as a symbol of Southern heritage and pride,” Mississippi-native country music star Faith Hill tweeted, “but we have to realize that this flag is a direct symbol of terror for our black brothers and sisters.
Associated Press contributed to this report.