“We’re really having a moment, huh?”
One of my Twitter mutuals said this to in response to a link I posted the other day. And she’s right. We are going through a moment in history that has the potential to be remembered as a pivotal time in humanity’s development. Between the protests against police violence on black people to the anger at the blatant audacity of how the Powers That Be are screwing us over, a spark that just might catch fire.
But the main thing she was referring to – and the thing that makes me believe that enough has finally become enough – was this link. Briefly, Mississippi lawmakers are once again considering changing the state flag to remove the familiar Confederate symbol. Led by the Black Caucus and encouraged by state religious leaders, the measure has strong bipartisan support within the Legislature though Gov. Tate Reeves has gone on record he’d prefer it be left up to the voters. Regardless, if the bill got a positive vote from two-thirds of the 120 House members, it goes to Reeves’ desk to be signed or vetoed. Furthermore, polling is showing Mississippians aren’t as violently hostile to the idea as we have been in the past.
A little history first. Mississippi really didn’t have a state flag until it succeeded from the Union in 1861. This wasn’t unusual, as most states really didn’t have “official flags” despite the smaller emphasis on federalism. Like most of the newly formed Confederate States of America they initially adopted the Bonnie Blue Flag, a secondary Southern flag after the familiar stars-and-bars that you only see nowadays on the cars of serious “fergit hell” types.
It didn’t take them long to come up with the first official flag for the State of Mississippi, the “Magnolia flag“. Self-evidently named, it was a white banner with a thick red border and a blue star in the upper-right corner. The empty space on the left was dominated by a picture of a Magnolia tree, because we’ve been “the Magnolia State” almost from the get-go. For what it’s worth, I like this flag. Simple and humble, if there’s really anything that Mississippians from Corinth to Biloxi can agree on is that we have a passel of Magnolia trees in this state.
Of course, that means it didn’t last. As I hope we all know by now, especially given the ongoing debate about whether or not we really need statues honoring Confederate generals or military bases named for them, that aforementioned Confederate flag didn’t really come into play until after the U.S. government let Reconstruction collapse and the South as one man decided to remind its black citizens just who was lower class. Due mainly to efforts by the Daughters of the Confederacy, those now-endangered statues went up like innumerable middle fingers in marble and the Republican party became persona non grata in dear ol’ Dixie.
Now, if you know your history, you know most Southern states adopted flags with the Confederate emblem on them in reaction to the Civil Rights movement. Most people thought that was just in the ’60s, but it actually started gaining a bit of steam in the ’20s when living in the South was a serious nightmare for black people. White folks, we were awful. In this, though, Mississippi was first and adopted what’s now the state flag in 1894.
But as the years rolled on and white people across the South got slightly less awful, if more Republican, most states moved away from showcasing the Confederate emblem. In fact, if you don’t count Alabama’s stylized red cross on a white background, we’re the only one that still has it on our flag. A public referendum in 2001 brought up changing the flag, basically doing little more than replacing the Stars-&-Bars with a field of 13 stars representing the original 13 colonies.
Again, as far as I’m concerned, a perfectly nice flag as flags go. However, the public was made up of Mississippians, and if there’s one across-the-board trait Mississippians share, apart from being mean as hell, is that we do not like change. So the referendum was defeated by a vote of 64% to 36%, with “keeping the flag” receiving almost double the votes over “get rid of it”. Interestingly, this ratio held true across racial groups. Make of that what you will.
Fast forward to 2020 and a summer full of people shouting in the streets at the injustice of the world. It all started perhaps in 2014 when Bree Newsome yanked the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina courthouse square in the wake of the Charlotte shootings. After the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop as three other Minneapolis cops watched, it has grown into, among other things, defaced statues of Confederate generals by people tired of looking at the bastards and a serious discussion in the military that maybe making black soldiers station at military bases named after people who fought against things like letting them be in the military was a bit tacky, to say the least.
One popular suggestion for replacement is the “Stennis flag,” designed by Laurin Stennis. It’s two vertical red bars on either side of a white banner with a large blue star circled by smaller blue stars in the center. Again, a perfectly lovely flag as far as flags go. Along with being a noted Mississippi artist, the designer is also the granddaughter of the late John C. Stennis, who served in the U.S. Senate for 41 years as one of the last holdouts of the old Solid South. He voted and campaigned fiercely against every piece of Civil Rights legislation in the ’60s and continued to be a dick about things on into the ’80s by voting against holding a day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So that’s interesting.
Sure enough, the day before the Mississippi Today article announced serious legislative work was going on to do just that, I told a friend that I’d know things were serious when Mississippi got rid of their flag. And here we are. The Confederate Flag been banned at NASCAR events, maybe the most Southern thing in the South, and it’s no longer allowed in any form on Marine bases. This isn’t 2001, either, and support among the voters is growing towards a change, in a pleasant surprise. As was noted earlier, we are in the midst of a thing and I don’t believe it can be denied by the Powers That Be any longer.
Of course, they are going to try. Next Friday is Juneteenth, which celebrates the day in 1865 when Union troops marched into Galveston, Texas, to announce that it was no longer legal to hold black people in bondage as chattel slavery. Next Friday is also the day when Trump starts resumes the periodical rallies he’s been unable to have due to COVID-19 concerns. These deals are about the only part of the job he enjoys and no doubt much of his recent pestilence is because he’s not getting regular ass moistening from his Base he feels he deserves.
This return to rallying the faithful against the Anti-Trump Enemy, despite the administration explicitly not giving a damn about any worry of the epidemic that’s killed over 116,000 Americans to date, is going on in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa’s a groovy little town that was also the place of one of if not the worst race massacres in American history. This is basically where white people demolished the local black community, particularly the highly successful financial part known as “Black Wall Street,” just because white people often enjoy being complete assholes about things. Ugly story short, white people backed by the National guard destroyed over 36 blocks of black residencies and businesses, killing an estimated 300 black people and the 2019 equivalent of over $32 million in property damage.
Based on circumstantial evidence that’s since been “lost”, it all started because a white woman claimed a black man “accosted” her in an elevator. A black police officer – yeah, a black cop – was arrested for the crime, protests against it quickly turned bloody due to police aggression, white people decided black people were being a bit too much, and the whole mess was encouraged by the white-owned, business-friendly local media that was racist as hell. The more things change, huh? And the white folks got off without even a slap on the wrist; indeed, white people got “re-compensation” for minor damages, most caused by white rioters, while black people who lost property and business got the finger.
All of this took place from May 31 to June 1 in 1921 and is understandably something of a sore point. So, Trump – who’s been let’s say “unhelpful” during this time of anger and frustration from people concerned about the safety of America’s black people – is hosting one of his little Volksgemeinschaft in a town marred by one of the country’s most shameful moments on a day that black people celebrate as when the rest of the country had to start treating them as equally human. White House Press Secretary and preppy homunculus Kayleigh McEnany claims Juneteenth is “important” to Trump and there’s nothing to the choice of Tulsa as the place for the return to riling up the MAGA faithful.
Me, I say horsefeathers. This has Stephen Miller’s cadaver-like fingers all over it and Trump is simply a big enough dick to either not give a shit or appreciate sticking a metaphorical thumb in the eye of Black Lives Matter. God alone knows what sort of nonsense he’s going to blather, but I really doubt it’ll be helpful.
Call it an educated guess.