Despite recurring turmoil, Mississippi hasn’t budged on flag

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After white nationalists marched with the Confederate battle flag last weekend amid violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, critics said the identical emblem should be removed from Mississippi’s flag — just as they did two years ago, when a white fan of the Rebel banner massacred black worshippers in South Carolina.

So far, Mississippi hasn’t budged.

Mississippi is the last state with a flag featuring the emblem — a red field topped by a blue tilted cross dotted by white stars. Used since 1894, the state flag has long been divisive. With President Donald Trump and others arguing about the public display of Confederate symbols, emotions are running high among Mississippi residents.

Critics excoriate the banner as a racist remnant of slavery and segregation. Supporters embrace it as a symbol of home and heritage.

Charles Jones, who is African-American, said seeing white nationalists marching with the battle flag in Charlottesville was sickening.

“The Mississippi flag currently has the Confederate battle flag attached to it, and of course that represents terrorism — white terrorism, white superiority, that kind of thing,” Jones said Thursday. “It’s an intimidating symbol, so we definitely need to get rid of it before we can get rid of some of the hatred that we still have. It’s ungodly, you know. It’s contrary to what the Bible teaches.”

Dolly Lee, who is white, flies Mississippi flag on her front porch in the small coastal town of Kiln and sees it as benevolent. She said it’s been a symbol of Mississippi pride as long as she can remember, and her grandparents and parents displayed it at their homes.

“It’s not the statues or the flag that’s causing the hate. It’s what’s in people’s hearts,” Lee said. “And, if you have love, then you can love anybody. It doesn’t matter the color or what. The world today is what we make it. … And, just because I’ve got the state flag in my yard doesn’t mean that I hate anybody. It’s because I’m from Mississippi, and that’s my state flag.”

Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, both Republicans, say flag design should be determined by a statewide election.

“Hatred resides in a person’s heart, and I doubt the presence of an altered flag makes someone more hateful than they would have been,” Reeves said. “Mississippians voted to keep the state flag in 2001. If voters want to revisit the issue, they can, but a Legislature or governor should not unilaterally override the vote of the…

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