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Mississippi votes to remove Confederate symbol from state flag

The bill, which the House of Representatives had passed with a 91-23 majority vote earlier in the day, calls for a nine-member commission that would design a new flag that does not use the Confederate standard and does include the phrase “In God, We Trust.”

The bill, which the House of Representatives had passed with a 91-23 majority vote earlier in the day, calls for a nine-member commission that would design a new flag that does not use the Confederate standard and does include the phrase “In God, We Trust.”   | Photo Credit: AP

Democratic senator John Horhn said changing the flag would not solve the effects of the country’s racist past

Lawmakers in Mississippi voted Sunday to remove the Confederate battle standard from the state flag, after nationwide protests drew renewed attention to symbols of the United States' racist past.

The measure passed with a 91-23 majority vote in the House of Representatives, triggering cheers in the Senate gallery. A few hours later, the Senate voted 37-14 for the bill.

"In the name of history, whether you're black or white, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, I ask you today to stand in the name of history," Democratic senator Derrick T. Simmons urged his colleagues before the vote. "I ask each of you as we recognize and understand the Mississippi of yesterday, let's vote today for the Mississippi of tomorrow."

Senators celebrated with cheers, hugs and fist-bumps.

Mississippi is the only American state to incorporate the Confederate standard on its official flag, after nearby Georgia dropped it in 2003.

The criss-crossed diagonal stars pattern was used by southern troops, including Mississippians, during the 1861-1865 American Civil War — the bloody conflict that brought an end to slavery — and for many it remains a symbol of the country's dark racial legacy.

The bill calls for a nine-member commission to design a new flag that does not use the Confederate standard and does include the phrase "In God, We Trust."

State residents would vote on the design in November. If they reject the new design, Mississippi will go without a state flag until a new design is approved.

Democratic senator John Horhn said changing the flag was a "big step... in the journey we are on to recognize everybody's God-given humanity."

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also hailed the decision.

 

Votes in both houses of the state's legislature followed weeks of mounting pressure and hours of impassioned debate. Governor Tate Reeves said Saturday that he would sign the bill into law.

Racial injustice has been the subject of a renewed and fiery national conversation in the U.S. since the death in May of unarmed African-American man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.

His killing ignited mass protests and civil unrest across the country that has also led to the destruction of statues of former Confederate military leaders.

'Symbol of terror'

Mississippi in 2001 voted overwhelmingly to retain its current flag, hailed by its defenders as a proud symbol of southern heritage and history.

The push to change the flag has grown dramatically in the past week. 

"I understand many view the current flag as a symbol of heritage and Southern pride," country music star Faith Hill, a Mississippi native, tweeted. "But we have to realize that this flag is a direct symbol of terror for our black brothers and sisters."

But Governor Reeves warned Saturday that changing the flag would not end racism or end divisions in his state. Bringing the state together, he wrote on Twitter, "will be harder than recovering from tornadoes, harder than historic floods... even harder than battling the Coronavirus."

With debate raging across the U.S., NASCAR this month banned the display of the Confederate flag at its car racing events. The flag had previously been a common sight at races, particularly in its southern U.S. heartland.

Protesters have also begun tearing down statues of Confederate generals and pro-slavery leaders, prompting harsh criticism and threats of prosecution from President Donald Trump. But some cities have opted to reevaluate and remove controversial monuments. New York City is to remove a statue of former president Theodore Roosevelt, long criticized as a racist and colonialist symbol.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 4:20:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/mississippi-votes-to-remove-confederate-symbol-from-state-flag/article31942434.ece

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