JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi is about to change its state flag to erase a Southern combat emblem widely condemned as racist.
The supporters of the flag have resisted attempts to change the flag for decades, but rapid developments in recent weeks have traditionally changed the dynamics in this area.
While protests against racial injustice have recently spread in the United States, including Mississippi, leaders of business, religion, education, and sports have expressed strong opposition to the state’s flag. They have urged lawmakers to drop the 126-year-old flag for one that better reflects the diversity of a state with a 38% black population.
Legislators are expected to vote on Sunday to remove the current flag from state law. A committee would design a new flag that should not contain the Confederate symbol and that should have the words “In God We Trust.”
The State House and the Senate met on Saturday and took a big step: they suspended the legal deadlines by two-thirds margin so that a bill could be introduced. Spectators cheered as each room voted, and lawmakers seeking the change embraced each other.
“There are economic problems. There are problems with football or whatever, ”Republican Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann said on Saturday. “But this voice came from the heart. That makes it so much more important. ‘
Democratic Senator David Jordan, who is African-American, has urged for decades to change the flag. He smiled broadly after Saturday’s vote and said, “This is such a metamorphosis.”
Mississippi has the latest state flag with the Confederate battle emblem – a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. The flag has been divided for generations. All of the state’s public universities have stopped flying, as have a growing number of cities and counties.
White supremacists in the Mississippi Legislature put the design of the state flag in 1894 during a backlash on the political power African Americans gained after the Civil War.
In 2000, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the flag had no official status. State laws were updated in 1906, and parts related to the flag were not transferred. Lawmakers organized a flag election in 2001, and voters maintained the rebel-themed design.
Former Ole Miss basketball player Blake Hinson told his hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida News-Journal that the Mississippi flag played a role in his decision to switch to the state of Iowa.
“It was time to leave Ole Miss,” Hinson said. “I am proud that I no longer represent that flag and am not associated with anything that represents the Confederacy.”
Republican governor Tate Reeves first said on Saturday that he would sign a bill to change the flag if the Republicans-controlled legislator sent him one.
Reeves and many other politicians have said that people should vote on a flag design at another national election. The new design – without the Confederate symbol – will be put to the vote on November 3, but it will be the only choice. If a majority votes that day, accepts the new design, it becomes the state flag. If a majority rejects it, the committee will design a new flag according to the same guidelines.
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