Mississippi to Retain Confederate Symbol

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upfront

Mississippi voters have chosen overwhelmingly to retain their 107-year old state flag bearing the Confederate battle cross. By a nearly 2 to 1 majority a proposal to replace the flag with one featuring a ring of stars was rejected on April 17. Mississippi is the only state in the country that continues to conspicuously fly the Confederate symbol.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement that he was disappointed in the vote and that the outcome "can only further divide a diverse population." Supporters of the old flag view it as a piece of history that should be honored; opponents see it as a painful reminder of the South's legally segregated past.

Many cite low Black voter turnout as being responsible for the 65 percent landslide vote to keep the Confederate symbol. But Mary Coleman, who chairs the Political Science Department at Jackson State University, disagrees. "Those are people looking for excuses for why the vote failed," Coleman says. "if every Black Mississippian had voted it still wouldn't have changed the outcome of the flag vote."

Coleman believes a number of things went "horribly" wrong in the effort to replace the old flag. She points to, for example, the lack of a sustained political campaign to change the symbol and says the vote to keep the flag demonstrates the number of people in the state who long to live in the past.

Whether or not to remove the old flag has been debated among the state's politicians for more than a decade. …