by Brian Lamar
I heard my phone’s Facebook Messenger ding with the familiar tone notification while I was at work. I picked it up and it was my friend Jwan Jordan who was blowing me up with links and comments about the recently Gulfport City Council’s decision to lower the Mississippi State Flag from City Hall. I want to take a moment and thank Gulfport for their brave and just decision.
That news, coupled with Mayor Fo Fo’s decision the week he took office in Biloxi years ago to take the State Flag off of city property and other cities like Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis following suit this past week to remove their flags, I am heartened by the movement.
In other places around the country, you see the nightly news of buildings and cars burning. Protests have spilled over into violence. Not here in South Mississippi. We on the coast have been embracing equality at a better pace than the rest of our state.
Coastal Mississippi is a beautiful and wonderful place where you see signs “All Are Welcome” all over the place after the previous governor and legislative body had decided to announce a law that allowed business to “religiously discriminate” against gays.
The flag coming down, for the most part, has the support of city and county leaders regardless of what the rest of the state is doing. This is how a democratic republic works. The significance of this should not be lost on you. This just isn’t a movement of the people vs. the government anymore. In the case of the majority of Coastal Mississippi’s towns, it is the people working together with the officials to right some wrongs in the past.
Now…many of our proud white heritage friends out there are upset because they feel their sacred St. Andrews cross and stars battle flag that occupies the top corner of our state flag is being disrespected.
Although these folks may like it, the flag is a symbol of hate and oppression for a large part of our society. It is just that simple. If you are white and proud of the heritage the flag stands for, then obviously you don’t agree. When I engage my white heritage friends in spirited debate, I hear arguments such as, this is my heritage. If you erase history, it will repeat itself. They are also referring to the removal of the statues and names of things like streets and parks that are named after the heroes of the confederacy. No one is discounting their bravery or their sacrifices for their cause regardless if it was just or not.
History books are filled with tales of valor from both sides of the war. The memories will live on in books, hopefully not in statues lording over town squares and courthouse buildings littered across the south.
I recently came across a bit of history that flies in the face of the statue argument. Have you ever heard of the American revolution? Obviously, you wouldn’t because crazy rioters tore down the statues of there oppressors…that’s why the world has no idea that there was a revolution that occurred that created our country.
I blame the “Sons of Freedom” who got stirred up after hearing the Declaration of Independence read publicly on July 9, 1776, these so-called Sons of Freedom—a mix of George Washington’s soldiers and civilians—tore down a statue of the British monarch George III in New York City. Wow, who would have ever known.
Also, I’ve heard rumors that back in World War II, there was an organization that was all about destroying the Jewish population through genocide. Too bad I’ve never heard of these guys because they took down all the swastika flags.
Of course, I am being overly sarcastic, but I used the last two paragraphs to make a point. We have learned and continue to learn about atrocities in the past because it isn’t erased by a statue toppling. It lives on in the thousands of books, movies, documentaries, magazines and other formats.
Let’s let go of the “heritage” of what was oppressive for many and look toward our future. Let’s look toward what we can become as a society. We can’t do that by honoring the worst part of what we were in our past.
One last question for the legislative body of Long Beach. Which side of history will you be on when the dust eventually settles from this civil rights movement?
Will you be a hold out for some or will you stand for justice for all and take down that offensive flag?