Gov. embarrasses us all with Confederate Heritage Month proclamation, again

Published 9:00 am Thursday, April 28, 2022

Other Opinion

On April 8, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves proclaimed April as Confederate Heritage Month, as he has in each of the three years since he became Governor and as the four governors preceding him have done. News of the proclamation emerged only on April 13, when Reeves was confronted by a reporter in a rare media availability.

Unlike other proclamations, which are disseminated broadly across all platforms available to the Governor’s office, Reeves designation of Confederate Heritage Month is made quietly, for reasons that should be obvious.

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People prefer secrecy when they are doing something they know they should be ashamed of.

Confronted about the proclamation, Reeves responded, “Look, I signed the Confederate Heritage Month in the month of April in the same manner and fashion that the five governors came before me, republicans and democrats alike, for over 30 years have done that. We did it again this year and didn’t think this year was the year to stop doing it, so…”

Forgive us if we are not convinced by the Governor’s explanation.

First, Reeves is the fifth governor to sign the proclamation, which began with Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice (1992-2000) in 1993, followed by Democrat Ronnie Musgrove (2000-2004), Republican Haley Barbour (2004-2012), Republican Phil Bryant (2012-2020) and now, Reeves, also Republican.

Democrat Ray Mabus (1988-92) was quick to correct the record suggesting Reeves had signed the proclamation during his tenure as Governor while asking a pertinent question:

So what?

“Scores of Mississippi governors were ardent segregationists but the fact it was a ‘tradition’ or the ‘status quo’ didn’t make it right or less hateful,” Mabus wrote in a Twitter response to the Governor’s explanation. “The only heritages of the Confederacy as far as I can tell are slavery and treason.”

Mabus is right, of course.

Confederate Heritage Month, as well as Confederate Memorial Day, a state holiday observed on the last Monday of the month of April, are relics of a shameful period in our history. You can throw in the state’s Robert E. Lee Day holiday, observed on the same day as the federal Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as well. It is a mockery, a show of defiance by an unrepentant and racist segment of our population, a voting bloc Reeves clearly embraces and fears.

For so many other Mississippians, the focus is on redeeming our history rather than glorifying it. When the state legislature finally passed legislation to retire the state flag, which bore Confederate imagery in its canton in 2020, it was broadly viewed as a good-faith effort to cleanse ourselves of the stain of the Confederacy which maintained that Black people, like farm implements or livestock, were no more THAN property. The Confederacy and slavery are inexorably linked. You cannot celebrate one without celebrating the other.

The legislature changed the flag when it became untenable to keep.

The same should apply to these vestiges of the Confederacy.

In his justification for Confederate Heritage Month, the Governor closed by saying, “We didn’t think this year was the year to stop doing it.”

That raises the obvious question: “What year WOULD be the right year? What has yet to happen that must happen before we can rid ourselves of these annual celebrations of hatred, ignorance and oppression?

It’s 2022 and it’s still not the right year?

That is beyond embarrassing. It’s sad and shameful.

— The Columbus Dispatch