Wednesday, March 7, 2018
So often opponents of the Mississippi flag are accused of being outside agitators: northerners, Democrats, liberals who don't understand the South. But I was born and raised in the South. It's my home. I want it to live up to its potential. I am not a Democrat, nor am I a liberal. I am a white man born here, and I say take the flag down.
The flag is a symbol of a heritage of racism, hate, violence and capitalist exploitation at its most explicit. It is the symbol of the Mississippi plantation class so committed to the riches from the chattel slavery of Africans that they led a secessionist movement to protect it. We know these were their reasons because they explicitly stated them in the Mississippi Declaration of Secession: "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest in the world [...] these products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun."
The declaration is clear: Secession is first and foremost about the brutal enslavement of the Africans ripped from their homes and families. It is impossible for the secessionists to have been more explicit in their reasons. Note the connection between slavery and capitalist profit as well. Slavery produced massive material interests for the world, which led to massive material profit for the plantation owners as the South's ruling class.
In the declaration, Mississippi angrily alleged that the United States had a "hostility" that "denies the right of property in slaves" and "advocates negro equality, socially and politically."
Only in bad faith can there be any more debate. The leaders of Mississippi, the plantation bourgeoisie, named the defense of white supremacy as their chief motivation: to fight for the violent subjugation of human beings. This is the heritage of the Confederacy. This is what the Confederate battle flag stands for. This is the flag that the Klan, a murderous band of cowards in white hoods, flies. This is the heritage of the flag flying above our state. To argue otherwise is intellectually dishonest. So why is it still flying?
When I was young and immature, I had a rebel flag hanging in my room. I told myself it was about southern pride, a different heritage. What a joke. Every explanation of "it's about honor and defending your rights" fell flat when I was confronted with the clear unequivocal heritage that the original flyers of the flag, our ancestors—my ancestors—established.
I get it. I get the knee-jerk reaction to defend it. I am a southerner. Our area of the country is the butt of joke after joke, some deserved, many undeserved, but we cannot defend the South by defending any and all symbols identified as "southern." It is no excuse to defend and justify such an explicitly racist and violent heritage of slavery.
So again, why does Mississippi still fly a flag bearing the Confederate battle flag? Why do politicians and its supporters defend it? Do they support the true heritage of the flag? Do they want to continue the violent subjugation of African Americans for profit? Do they desire to expand the incarceration state and enslave more people day by day?
I truly hope that they, like my younger self, are merely having a knee-jerk reaction in defense of their home. It's time to grow up and see our history for what it is and move on. Take down the flag of the exploiter, the slaver and the racist. Take it down and burn it.
Mississippi deserves so much better.
Criminal defense attorney and armchair philosopher Andrew J. Williams, Esq., lives and practices in his adopted home of Mississippi.