By Christian Johnson
Mississippi is a state synonymous with conservatism. The phrase “Heritage not hate” rings through the state. The question is why?
Mississippi’s image among the 50 states is one that is “racist,” “stuck in the past,” “inbred,” and “non adaptive.” These are words used by just four people I asked from my Missouri hometown.
There are at least 50 recorded statues dedicated to the Confederacy throughout the state of Mississippi, and there are several in Oxford alone.
One of the first and easiest steps Mississippi can take to reverse this image of being racist or stuck in the past is to simply remove these monuments and place them in dedicated museums. The University of Mississippi has taken measures to up its image by removing the state flag, which hosts an image of the Confederate flag. Though it has seen great backlash in recent years, many of the people I interviewed say they respect the school much more.
Jacob Deck, a student at Missouri State University, said, “It’s just too soon for many people. Even my grandparents remember the state’s resistance to integration, so why even keep artifacts that remind people of those times?”
His words are echoed by many others. Though maybe not in the state of Mississippi itself, others feel that if the state made even the smallest changes (changing the state flag and overhauling how it views and handles the long past Civil War), then it’s image in the country would skyrocket. Mississippi could be remembered for its vast wildlife reserves, beautiful scenery, great diversity, and musical culture, but instead, it is linked to days of slavery, discrimination, and disenfranchisement.
There are already many petitions and movements to change the state flag. From petitions.moveon.org, “The Confederate battle emblem represents: hatred, death, slavery, Jim Crow and the Confederacy. The time for the flag to come down is now. Mississippi deserves a flag that represents all Mississippians. The state flag is the last flag with the Confederate battle flag emblem. It’s time for it to be lowered. This Flag Day, we want to make that happen.”
This petition alone currently has 67,424 signatures. Most of these are from out of state residents, so think about the looming number that could be gained from just going to college campuses around the state.
It is a well known fact that academia is often considered more liberal or and prone to change. I propose a campaign that would enable me to travel to college campuses around the state to gain handwritten signatures.
The most commonly forward thinking demographic also happens to be the future of the state of Mississippi. This shows an overarching lean towards reshaping the state’s image.
Though an online presence could be created to allow people from out of state to voice their opinions, what many of these campaigns are missing are inside views.
Though this hypothetical PR campaign doesn’t really offer any results, I bet many feel the same way I have described. Showing Mississippi’s state congress how many residents feel about these monuments would pressure them to make changes.
Mississippi’s image could easily be altered. By replacing the state flag and transferring many monuments, or what some call shrines, the state would be more inclusive to all its residents and become an overall better place to live and coexist.