As a Mississippian transplanted to California who wrote a song called “Take Down The Rebel Flag” for the Mississippi alt-country band Buffalo Nickel, I read with great interest a story entitled: “Mississippi flag causes controversy in California.”
According to the story, here’s what’s going on:
“According to the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Bar Association signed a resolution to remove Mississippi’s flag from the Santa Ana Civic Center. They say the flag’s confederate design, reminiscent of the Confederate battle flag used in the Civil War, symbolizes racism and hatred. Currently, all 50 states’ flags fly outside the center.”
The story goes on to quote various Mississippians who support Mississippi’s flag:
“‘People need to get out of that. You know … how are we ever going to move forward? That flag represents a lot of soldiers. It represents a lot of hard fighting for everybody,’ said Stacy Collett from Raymond, Miss.
Steve Hampton, of west Jackson, Miss., said, ‘Our state flag does not remind me of racism. People and their actions remind me of racism. I’ve since let it go. I don’t think it has anything to do with a flag.'”
I’m gonna go ahead and take a wild guess that Stacy and Steve are probably…not black.
Mississippi flag=CSA flag with more colors
Here’s what Mississippi’s flag currently looks like for those who may not know:
And here is the second official flag of the Confederate States of America, again for those who may not know:
The similarities are quite obvious. A third CSA flag was adopted in 1865 which looks just like the one above except that a single vertical red stripe was added to the right side of the flag. The various flags can be viewed at this link.
So what’s all the fuss about?
All right, so big deal–the Mississippi state flag looks just like the Confederate flag. That’s what Stacy and Steve from the article above are essentially saying, i.e., who cares because they don’t think of it in a bad light. But I’m pretty sure that Stacy and Steve never read the entry from my old blog which said this:
“The ‘rebel flag’ we are all familiar with was incorporated into both the 2nd and 3rd official flags of the CSA. So in every conceivable way, the ‘rebel flag’ is inextricably linked with the Confederacy, and we know that Mississippi left the Union and joined the Confederacy in order to be able to perpetuate the practice of slavery.
Even CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens knew the real reason the Confederacy came into being:
‘The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negr0 in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.’
Slavery was, in Stephens’ words, THE immediate cause of the formation of the CSA. He didn’t say it was the only cause, to be sure. It was just the cause that had the most direct bearing on the secession. That’s all.
Stephens goes on to whip up some of that good ol’ ‘Southern pride’ and ‘heritage, not hate’ for ya:
‘Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negr0 is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.’
But seriously, I don’t know why so many people…wish to argue that slavery really didn’t have all that much to do with the creation of the Confederacy. Especially when the fucking VP of the CSA himself said that making blacks subordinate to ‘the superior race’ was the very ‘cornerstone’ of the CSA! He actually said that slavery for blacks was normal and constituted a great ‘moral truth.’
And we’re supposed to believe that the flag of such a country doesn’t represent slavery and racism? And that such a flag’s inclusion on our state flag doesn’t hearken back to that sentiment? Really?
Well, sorry–that shit doesn’t wash. Mississippi said its decision to secede was to protect slavery, the VP of the CSA said that the very basis of the new nation (not really, though, because it was never recognized by any foreign country) was slavery, and God only knows what else.
Rebel Flag=slavery, white supremacy, tyranny and racism of the worst possible kind. End of story. It needs to be removed from our state flag–we’re the last state in the Union to cling to it. It’s pathetic, really. The flag stands for hate, not heritage.
Take down the rebel flag!”
Reading over that entry from almost exactly six years ago, I have to say I still concur with that analysis. There are a couple of references in the above excerpt to Mississippi saying it left the Union to protect slavery, and those references were made as if that fact were common knowledge. However, on the likely chance that the fact is not common knowledge, here’s another excerpt from my old blog on just that issue:
“…I ran across a document called ‘A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.’ I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Southern Mississippi and took a course in Mississippi history from one of the foremost scholars on the subject, John Gonzales (R.I.P.). But I don’t think I’d ever read that document before.
This document so easily puts to rest the faux-sophisticate argument that the southern states didn’t really fight the war over slavery, but instead fought it over some high-minded, esoteric, principles about economics and state’s rights. Actually, that’s kind of true, but slavery was at the heart of the matter, at least where Mississippi was concerned, and they said so very plainly in their “declaration of independence” from the Union. Here’s an excerpt:
‘Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun.
These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.’
Argument over. The Civil War was about slavery.”
Backwardness and hardheadedness
From the same link at my old blog, here are a couple other choice excerpts about how the attitude that clings to the Confederate flag is emblematic of the attitude that puts Mississippi at the bottom or near the bottom in lots of good things and at the top or near the top in lots of bad things:
“No one is denying that prejudice against blacks existed and still exists everywhere in the U.S., even in the north. However, the point being made in this thread is that Mississippi, as of 2003, is the only state that incorporates the Confederate flag into its state flag.
Given that fact, is it merely coincidental that we are also the only state that:
-has the lowest percentage of people who’ve completed high school (including equivalency)
-has the lowest median household income
-has the lowest median family income
-is the state with the highest percentage of children below the poverty level (Washington D.C. has a higher percentage but isn’t a state–but seems to be considered a state for the purposes of the census…even so…)
-has the highest percentage of people 65 and over below the poverty level
And so on. Our glorious yet benign heritage at work!!! Let us celebrate it with great fervor, shall we?
…I merely suggested that the flag and the sorry state of affairs in MS may be related…
The chain of causation if the two things were related might go like this:
-Slavery exists in MS
-Slavery in MS threatened
-MS leaves union to maintain slavery
-MS is on the losing side
-MS forced to free slaves
-MS resents this
-MS determined to keep former slaves and their descendants down
-MS largely succeeds in that effort with overt Jim Crow policies; Confederate flag incorporated into state flag, symbolizing success of Jim Crow
-Policies of oppression create a large underclass
-Underclass creates burden on state economy
-MS forced to stop keeping down former slaves and their descendants
-Underclass persists and grows through covert, subtle, neo-Jim Crow means; state given opportunity to change symbol–rejects change
-MS continues to rank at or near bottom of lists of most good things, at or near top of lists of most bad things
The state flag is not the cause of the state’s societal ills, obviously. But the mentality that keeps the Confederate flag on the state flag IS the cause of the state’s societal ills. That’s my argument.”
So is the Orange County Bar Association right to take down the Mississippi flag because it represents hate and racism? Well, you’ll get no argument from me…
Racism in Orange County did not start with the Mississippi flag, though I don’t doubt that we have our fair share of Mississippi Blacks and Whites contributing to the problems. It started with the ugly racist California constitution, which was based on the Maryland constitution. California had the chance to choose a free state’s constitution but choose Maryland’s slave constitution instead. Orange County itself was formed because the racists living here didn’t want to be affiliated with the multi-cultural Los Angeles populace, if I am not mistaken. It was designed by racist whites for racist whites, and the Mississippi flag was not part of that equation.
If the liars at the Orange County Bar Association want to stop racism in California, they need to look inward, not to Mississippi. They need to look at their judges and their courtrooms and ask why the people collecting salaries are largely white and the people being fined and detained are mostly poor. They need to look at our piss-poor schools and ask themselves why we are ranked BEHIND Mississippi when it comes to education. [No one cared about the Mississippi flag when they were ranked behind us, but now that their students are outperforming California students on tests, we suddenly have a problem with Mississippi. Interesting.] They should look at the school systems that were designed by Klansmen (such as Santa Ana) for the express purpose of keeping Hispanic children poor and uneducated. It wasn’t Mississippi that rounded up all the Mexicans (including 2nd generation Americans) and shipped them from Fullerton, California to Mexico in the 70’s. No, that was the racist white people of Orange County.
So, I disagree that insulting Mississippi will improve the racial climate in Orange County. I am Black, don’t like the Confederate flag, but felt freer in Picayune, Mississippi than I have felt in Orange County, California.
I hadn’t known the state flag of Mississippi was a confederate flag! Horrifying. Of course it represents hate and racism. And the Orange County Bar Association has the RESPONSIBILITY of taking it down.
Georgia and Mississippi were the last two states to have elements of Confederate flags in their post-Reconstruction state flags. Georgia got rid of their Confederate elements in 2001, leaving Mississippi all alone in this inexplicable position.
Good to know, but disturbing nonetheless.