Mississippi to vote on removing Confederate symbol from flag

The Confederate battle flag flying in South Carolina (left) and the Mississippi state flag featuring the criss-crossed diagonal stars pattern. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The Confederate battle flag flying in South Carolina (left) and the Mississippi state flag featuring the criss-crossed diagonal stars pattern. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON • Lawmakers in Mississippi will vote on removing the Confederate battle standard from the flag of the southern US state, prompted by weeks of convulsive anti-racism protests drawing attention to symbols of the nation's racist past.

The criss-crossed diagonal stars pattern was used by southern troops during the 1861-1865 American Civil War and, for many, it remains a symbol of the country's legacy of slavery.

That history has been the subject of a renewed and fiery national conversation since the death of unarmed African American George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer last month.

His death ignited mass civil unrest across the United States that has also led to the destruction of symbols of racial injustice, including statues of former Confederate military leaders.

Mississippi is the only American state to incorporate the battle standard on its official flag, after nearby Georgia voted for the symbol's removal from its own flag in 2003.

Two years before that, Mississippi voted overwhelmingly to retain its current flag, hailed by its defenders as a proud symbol of southern heritage and history.

"I know that when you walk into this building every day... I would guess that a lot don't even see that flag in the right corner up there," Mr Edward Blackman, an African American Democratic lawmaker, told colleagues during a Saturday debate on the flag.

"There's some of us who notice it every time we walk in here, and it's not a good feeling," he added.

Both chambers of the Mississippi legislature overwhelmingly approved procedural measures to bring a vote on removing the Confederate symbol. The vote could be debated as early as yesterday and appeared likely to pass based on Saturday's deliberations, the Washington Post reported.

Governor Tate Reeves has already said he will sign any Bill passed by lawmakers to change the banner.

Mr Floyd's death and the following weeks of civil unrest have prompted institutions across the country to scrutinise their roles in perpetuating racial injustice.

 

Princeton University said last Saturday that it was removing the name of president Woodrow Wilson from its public policy school and a residential college, calling the former US leader a racist.

Wilson served two terms as US president, from 1913 to 1921. He was the founding father of the League of Nations, a forerunner of the United Nations, and embodied the end of American isolationism.

But the 28th US president also supported racist policies, notably allowing segregation in federal agencies even after they had been racially integrated for decades.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2020, with the headline 'Mississippi to vote on removing Confederate symbol from flag'. Print Edition | Subscribe