Mississippi is better than this, we hope

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How is it that more than 50 years after James Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi campus, our state still struggles with symbols of its past?

When the 29-year-old Air Force veteran enrolled, a firestorm followed as a deadly riot broke out on campus. Images from that time period show two flags prominently.

Those in opposition to Meredith are seen often waving the Confederate battle flag. It is the very same flag that was waved in delight as then-governor and ardent segregationist Ross Barnett attempted to stop Meredith and other black Mississippians from having equal rights.

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On the other side of history’s street, the one less remembered, a small group of mostly black supporters marched waving the U.S. flag with a banner in support of Meredith.

Mississippi was being hardheaded back then. We were bound and determined to have things our way, even if our way was mean-spirited and unfair.

Fortunately, the federal government prevailed that day, and Mississippi started, slowly, to change.

So with that well-known history as a backdrop, think about how similar today’s debate over the symbols of the Confederate flag in Mississippi’s official state flag are.

Today, many Mississippians see how foolish it is to cling to the symbol that, while perhaps was once pure and historic, has been corrupted by its association with hate groups.

Gov. Phil Bryant, showing a similar defiance to doing what is right that Barnett did in the 1960s, has refused to even consider calling a special session of the Legislature.

Mississippi is better than this; at least we think it is. Perhaps less has changed than we hoped.