April 15, 2001
Stennis: Look ahead'
To the Editor:
Former Governor William Winter chose good words when he said Mississippi should step out of Confederate shadows. This highly respected leader and friend did not say we should forget our Confederate heritage, but rather that we should honor it by making our current flag an official Mississippi historic flag.
I lived most of my adult life in the Carolinas until five years ago when I moved home to DeKalb. During those years away I learned that people outside our state, including fellow Southerners, hold some very wrong notions about Mississippi.
They formed those notions 40 years ago, or from movies based on those troubled years, and they seem to think nothing here has changed since then.
The fact is, Mississippi is filled with progressive communities and people of sincere good will. To let others know this, we need a really newsworthy opportunity to say it loud and clear!
We have this unique opportunity on April 17, when most certainly we will have the attention of the nation and even the world. This is our chance to say who we really are in 2001, and when we have spoken we must live with it. I believe adopting a new flag will send a signal of openness, reconciliation and progress, and that all of us will hold our heads a little higher.
In recent weeks, I have asked myself what my dad, John C. Stennis, would say about changing our flag. As much as he revered the Confederate sacrifice of family members and neighbors who lived before us, he recognized that in the 20th century the Confederate battle flag was stolen.
Its meaning was stolen from all of us, he used to say, by those who waved it to show hatred and defiance, rather than to show reverence for honor and valor. I also remember hearing him say this: that while Mississippi's reconciliation between the races might come about slowly, it would be genuine and enduring, sustained by a long tradition of trust and respect between good families white and black.
Right now my dad would be proud of the sincere good will and friendship that is alive and growing in Mississippi workplaces, classrooms, volunteer groups and sports programs. He would be proud of our economic growth. Right now I believe he would counsel us to retire our current flag with honor and move into this century with a new banner for today's Mississippi. Right now I can picture the two-word motto he kept on his desk for decades in DeKalb and Washington. It said "Look Ahead."
Margaret Stennis Womble
New flag healing, inclusive
To the Editor:
The upcoming vote on our state flag is charged with considerable emotion whatever one's position might be. I have read many letters, articles, and editorials for and against the new flag. Those for the new flag seem to me to present the most reasonable arguments, and therefore, I plan to support it.
I am a 73 year old native Mississippian. My grandfather fought in the Civil War and is buried in the Confederate cemetery behind Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis in Biloxi.
Those of us who share this heritage are faced with a decision as to whether we will continue to support the symbol which represents those tragic and divisive times or move into the 21st century with a new symbol, one which is healing, inclusive, and unifying. Some say they support the old flag for historic and traditional reasons. I say those reasons do not outweigh its continued image as identifying racial views. Did you know that there are some 27 hate groups in the state of Mississippi, and some of them use this symbol? This is certainly not to say that those who support the current flag endorse these groups. However, the image it projects to the nation and the world is negative and detrimental.
I encourage you to consider voting for the new flag.
F. William Price
Flag a symbol of hatred
To the Editor:
The argument that the Confederate flag as it is depicted in the Mississippi flag was never a symbol of hatred or never flew over a Confederate ship is, true or false, irrelevant. The Confederate flag is a symbol and the meaning of symbols change.
At some point during the 1940s, when l was a young girl in Macon, Georgia, the Rialto Theater opened its balcony to blacks. A friend and I went to a movie at the Rialto one Saturday afternoon. I don't remember being aware at the time that the balcony had been opened to blacks (my father certainly wasn't aware of it or he would never have allowed me to go).
The Ku Klux Klan knew about it, however, and when my friend and I came out of the movie house, my father wasn't there to meet us because the Klan had blocked the street. The street and the sidewalk were packed with men dressed in white hooded robes; they waved flags that seemed as large to me as bed sheets; and they carried burning torches.
The flags were the same Confederate design as the one in the Mississippi flag today, and they didn't indicate to me anything about pride or heritage or any other attribute I wanted to be associated with.
At another time, my mother and father and my little brother and I were at a drive-in movie watching Pinkie a movie about a black woman (played by a white woman) who passed for white and fell in love with a white man, who returned her love even when he found out she had black blood. Suddenly the picture on the large screen faded as if the sun had come up, and the drive-in parking lot lit up. Behind us, on a hill, a gigantic cross had burst into flames and standing around it were the men in white hooded robes. They were waving Confederate flags.
Whatever the significance was of the Confederate flag, the design that now rests in the upper left-hand corner of the Mississippi State flag is, in my experience, a symbol of hatred against blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Asians anyone who is not Aryan and for that reason, it should not be there.
Charlene E. Dye