Finally! These Universities Join 21st Century, Remove Racist Symbol (VIDEO)
While it’s an emblem of battle, for many of us, it’s also a symbol of racism — and fortunately, several Mississippi universities have joined the 21st Century and are taking down the Confederate flag.
Universities are taking the lead in removing this racist symbol
So far, seven of Mississippi’s eight public universities have stopped flying the state flag which has an inset of the Confederate battle emblem.
Mississippi State University and the Mississippi University for Women are the latest to announce Tuesday that they had removed the state’s flag from outdoor flagpoles earlier this summer. State lawmakers hadn’t acted on changing the flag earlier this year, so the universities took it on themselves.
“The university community supports a flag that unites everyone in the state behind it,” Jim Borsig, president of the Mississippi University for Women, told The Associated Press.
Only one of Mississippi’s universities is still flying the flag: Delta State University, and in a statement, the school said Tuesday that it’s open to the idea of removing the flag if university cabinet members vote to do so.
While students and faculty at both schools were away, the changes were ushered in quietly.
Sid Salter, MSU spokesman said on Tuesday that President Mark Keenum approved plans by campus leaders to remove the flag from four locations on the university’s Starkville campus last June and July. Salter added that the state flags have been replaced with larger American flags. These flags mirror a large American flag that’s flown in MSU’s central quad for 15 years or more.
MSU, which has 21,000 students removed Mississippi flags from athletic arenas years ago, he said.
Borsig notes that MUW, which has 2,700 students, is expanding a driveway near an auditorium where the solitary state flag stood. So after discussing it with campus groups, he encouraged them to lobby elected officials. The 50th anniversary of the university’s integration and Mississippi’s upcoming 2017 bicentennial also influenced him, he said.
People who opposed the Mississippi state flag welcomed its removal.
“It was important to us to take it down because it just reminded us of the Civil War and people who wanted to keep us slaves, “ said Deborah Frazier, president of the Mississippi State campus branch of the NAACP. “Now it doesn’t remind us daily when we see the flag of that oppression.”
Frazier, a junior who’s majoring in English was one of a group of students who protested the flag along with other issues in front of Keenum’s office in April after he informed students he didn’t intend on removing it.
“Taking the state flag down arbitrarily is a symbolic gesture that accomplishes nothing toward actually changing the state flag to something that everyone can support and feel good about,” Keenum said at the time.
Salter said the state flag will remain part of a display in the university’s main cafeteria that shows flags of all 50 states and other nations.
A number of Mississippi’s public universities have taken steps to distance themselves from Confederate symbols over the last year or so.Last fall two universities—Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) and the University of Southern Mississippi took down the state flag on their campuses. And recently, Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork confirmed that in an effort to make the campus’s game day experience all-inclusive, the university’s marching band will no longer play “Dixie.”
But these decisions haven’t done much to sway state policy. A number of bills meant to change the state flag died in the House committee during 2016’s legislative session. And a number of Republicans (who else?) keep referring to the 2001 referendum in which voters elected to keep the state flag.
Chief among them?
Avid Donald Trump supporter, Gov. Phil Bryant.
“Gov. Bryant does not get involved in day-to-day decisions at Mississippi’s institutions of higher learning,” said Clay Chandler, Bryant’s chief of communications, in a statement. “As he has said before, he believes voters should decide at the ballot box what the state flag is or is not. Mississippians who pay for the operation of Mississippi State University certainly have the right to express their opinion to university leadership regarding this decision.”
Previously, Bryant said in a statement addressing USM’s removal of the state flag at one of its campuses, that publicly funded institutions should pay heed to Mississippi law because it grants the state flag “all the respect and ceremonious etiquette given the American flag.”
Section 37-13-13 of Mississippi law states the flag “shall be displayed in close proximity to the school building at all times during the hours of daylight when the school is in session when the weather will permit without damage to the flag.” It goes on to state “It shall be the duty of the board of trustees of the school district to provide for the flags and their display.” However, it doesn’t reference institutes of higher learning.
Alongside MSU, MUW and Ole Miss, the universities that have taken down the state flag are Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University and UMMC (University of Mississippi Medical Center).
Having lived in several places in the rural south, I can say this flag is little more than a symbol of repression and racism. It’s an unpleasant reminder that some people refuse to get rid of a part of the past that brought suffering to so many African-Americans.
I remember vividly one particular day that one young man placed a huge Confederate flag right in front of my RV. I found it intimidating and frightening, even though I’m not black.
I’m glad these places of higher learning are leading the charge to get rid of this outdated symbol.
You can watch Bryant vent h is spleen about the removal of the state flag in this video: