The Mississippi State House of Representatives and the Senate voted on Sunday (June 28th) to remove a Confederate symbol from the flag of the southern US state. The move comes as a wave of anti-racist protests across the United States has rekindled controversy over the persistence of symbols of slavery.
The current flag, adopted in 1894, includes the standard – red background, blue cross diagonally with small white stars – which represented the southern states, opposed to the abolition of slavery, during the American Civil War ( 1861-1865).
The removal of the emblem was approved Sunday by the Mississippi House of Representatives by a majority of 91 votes to 23. The vote sparked clamors of approval in the public gallery. Then the Senate in turn approved the provision by 37 votes to 14, and senators celebrated the vote with cheers and hugs.
The law passed on Sunday calls for a nine-member commission to design a new flag that will include the phrase "In God We Trust" (" We believe in God "), the American currency. Mississippi citizens will have to vote on the new flag in November. If they reject it, the state will not have a flag until a new design has been approved.
A change rejected in 2001
Mississippi Democrat Senator John Horhn said changing the flag alone would not dissipate the effects of the racist past in the southern United States. "But it is a big step on the road to the recognition of humanity and of the value given by God to everyone", did he declare.
Governor Tate Reeves, who did not support the flag debate, said on Saturday that he would not use his veto power and that he would pass the law if it was passed.
Mississippi, with a long segregationist past, is the last state to display this badge on its flag since Georgia renounced it in 2003. Two years earlier, Mississippi's elected officials had voted overwhelmingly for the conservation of the current flag, considered by its supporters as a symbol of the historic heritage of the southern United States.
But in the context of recent protests after George Floyd’s death, the debate has been rekindled in the state. Symbol of the country's troubled history, the flag is, like the statues of Confederate generals or slavery leaders, among the emblems questioned.
A black parliamentarian, Edward Blackmon Jr., pointed this out to his colleagues during the debate on Saturday, referring to the flag that flies over the building of the House of Representatives in Jackson, the state capital.
"I imagine that many of us do not even see this flag anymore", But "Some of us notice it every time we enter here, and it is not a pleasant feeling", did he declare.
"A symbol of terror for our black brothers and sisters"
The flag change movement had gained momentum in several sectors of society in the past week. Kylin Hill, a star player on the Mississippi State University football team, had tweeted : "Change the flag or I will no longer represent this state". " I mean seriously ", said Hill, an African American. " I have enough ".
Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this State anymore 💯 & I meant that .. I’m tired https://t.co/IzizpWLoIg
The next day, the powerful association of Mississippi Baptist churches called for the flag to be changed. Then other associations from various economic sectors, as well as sports officials, joined the movement.
"I understand that many see the current flag as a symbol of southern heritage and pride", at tweeted Faith Hill, a country music star. "But we have to understand that this flag is a symbol of terror for our black brothers and sisters".
I understand many view the current flag as a symbol of heritage and Southern pride, but we have to realize that th… https://t.co/aAxy8HQkPg
The Nascar automobile championship, particularly popular in the South, has just banned it on its circuits, where it could be seen brandished by fans.