Friday, December 15, 2017
The opening of the Mississippi civil rights and history museums was a historic moment for Mississippi. I mean, whoever would have thought that we would be discussing a civil rights museum in the city of Jackson, Mississippi—which promises to take an honest look at the civil rights struggle.
Mississippi was at the center of much of the racial strife of the fifties and sixties, and even now Mississippi still has much work to do to stamp out the legacy of racism and hatred entirely. But I can acknowledge that the museum is a step in the right direction.
When President Trump's visit was announced, I worried that this historical moment would be mired in the mud of controversy. Many refused to attend because they didn't want to be in his presence.
But I believe that we just might be missing the bigger picture, which is: This is a chance for us to shape our narrative—to tell the true story of our dark, yet rich history.
The world's eyes are on Mississippi, and we must seize this moment to celebrate the heroes of the civil rights movement publicly. This celebration is a form of "reclaiming our time," in the words of Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Our interests have been purposely downtrodden and pushed to the side for so long, that we haven't even realized that we have been given our voice back. We are silenced no longer. We must live in our truth, and use this platform to bring light to the issues that affect all Mississippians, such as the issue of the Confederate flag, delayed justice for Emmett Till, HB 1523, poverty, education and racial reconciliation.
In the case of the latter, I believe that the museum opening shows that we are on the right track, starting the long journey towards reconciliation between white and black people in Mississippi. But this is only a start. After all, how can the Governor of Mississippi expect us to accept his actions in good faith, while he still proudly champions the Confederate emblem that stains our state flag?
If the governor and the rest of our political leaders are truly serious about their efforts to reconcile the rifts between us, then the way to show this is by bringing down that flag, which will truly usher in a new day in Mississippi.
We won't be satisfied by photo ops, or even with the unveiling of the new museums. No, the only thing that will satisfy us is the actions that will show us that Mississippi's leaders recognize that we are ready for a change.
It is our opportunity to show the best part of what America has to offer. All eyes are on Mississippi now. While we have the attention of the world, let's use it to show that life's tribulations have not beat us. Let's show that we still have the light of justice burning brightly in our hearts.
Our community has been galvanized into action. We've seen this before. During the civil rights struggle, there was a mass awakening that could not and would not be quieted. The community came together and organized into an arm of justice dedicated to beating back the reckless bigotry and racism of the past. We have seen glimpses in recent months that show that it is happening again. The people of Alabama proved this when they sent a clear message to Roy Moore, President Trump, and all the world that Americans are no longer going to allow the ideals that established our country to be drowned out by voices of hate and intolerance.
I believe that the people of Mississippi will come together soon and send this same message. It is so important that our elected officials realize that they must take a stand on the right side of history.
If you truly believe in civil rights and racial reconciliation, then you can't just say it. You must take the actions that will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are serious about this grave issue.
No longer can Mississippi stand in the shadow of a flag that displays the blemish of our state's shame. No longer can we thrive or survive under this Confederate symbol.
It must go.
Duvalier Malone is a motivational speaker, political consultant, community activist and thought leader. His work places him squarely on the front lines regarding the issues of equal rights and equal opportunities for all. He currently resides in Washington, DC.