In my own words…People of goodwill should adopt new flag
April 8, 2001
Mississippians of all makes and persuasions will have an opportunity to cast a vote April 17 that can truly make the rest of the world say, "Wow!"
Of course, I am speaking about the statewide referendum on an official state flag, which apparently we haven't had since the early 1900s but didn't know it.
All this while, we have been flying a banner which undeniably bears the Confederate battle flag in its left corner. Call it St. Andrew's Cross if you want, but it is still most recognized as the Civil War standard.
I have heard all the reasons why this "old" flag should be retained as the official flag. As a native Mississippian with all the proper Southern credentials, I appreciate the feelings of its supporters. They are sincere. And generally, if I may make a broad assumption, they are people of good will.
But driving from Brandon to work last week, I saw a bumper sticker that almost caused me to pull over to the side and shiver: "Can't Feed Em, Don't Breed Em."
On the opposite end of that back bumper was a decal a Confederate flag.
Friends, as much as I might try to disconnect these two symbols in my mind, I cannot.
Think what you will about the Cross of St. Andrew. Honor your forefathers and foremothers who so valiantly fought for a lost cause. I do.
But the world of racism includes the flag of the Confederacy. Racist skinheads throughout the world use that flag as their rallying point. The David Dukes of the world repeat their mantra of hate before it every day. And Mississippi racists have it on their back bumpers next to vulgar racist slogans.
You may not even be a racist, but if you have that decal on your car, other people assume that you are. It is the coded language of hate.
Oh, I know some of you are saying, "Well, if I have to give up that flag, what's next? The Confederate monument in downtown Brandon? Will they have to change the name of Forrest or Lee County? What else?"
Here is good news. This proposition to adopt a new, unifying state flag stringently protects every marker, every monument, everything historically connected with the Confederacy. And it honors that 1894 banner as an official historic flag. And why not? It is a significant part of our history.
But without approval of the proposition, every one of those things is open for change or even elimination, if future generations decide to do so.
Adopting a new state flag would also say volumes to the rest of the world that Mississippi is full of people of good will, who honor and respect their past but believe in a new future that says to everyone: we respect each other.
Oh, I know some folks say they don't care what the rest of the world thinks; that they like this "us against the world" under-dog role.
Well, folks, let me tell you, I love this state but I don't enjoy having other people look down their noses at me when they hear where I'm from. And I have spent the past 20 years of my life sacrificing in many, many ways to raise two wonderful children for whom I want a bright future in this state, if that is their choice. I am not so sure they will want to stay in a place that embraces the most flagrant symbol of racism.
So, I urge each of you to search your heart, consider what Jesus would do.
I am going to vote for a new flag we can all view with pride a flag our children can respect and say that in 2001 we grownups took a stand and voted that we are not racists that we believe everyone has a place in our Mississippi community.
And to you folks who say you really don't care: think about the future and our children. Do it for them.
Patsy R. Brumfield, a McComb native, is former managing editor of The Enterprise-Journal. Now living in Brandon, she works in state government communications.