Yan: Raising a new flag, a symbol of hope for Mississippians

Mississippians+voted+on+a+new+flag%2C+%22The+New+Magnolia%2C%22+to+represent+the+state.+

Rocky Vaughn, Sue Anna Joe, Dominique Pugh, Clay Moss, Kara Giles, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mississippians voted on a new flag, “The New Magnolia,” to represent the state.

Jessica Yan, SGA Correspondent

After a century of bearing a flag that symbolized the dark Confederate past of the state, Mississippi raised a new magnolia flag, signaling the end of a troubling era and marking the start of a newfound beginning. The wait is finally over after Mississippi legislators agreed to change the flag after so many years. Mississippians should celebrate this historic moment, and not focus on those who continue to disapprove the new flag. 

In late June, legislators passed a bill that would replace the state flag bearing a Confederate symbol with a new flag. After 3,000 submissions and many months filled with voting later, Mississippi has emerged with a state flag named “The New Magnolia.” Designed by Rocky Vaughan, the flag is decorated with stars and stripes around a blossomed Magnolia flower. 

In 2001, Mississippians once had the chance to change the century-old flag bearing a Confederate emblem. Unfortunately, the statewide vote did not result in a majority as 64% of voters chose to not replace the Confederate flag, leaving Mississippi with no choice but to keep it. 

However, Mississippi is not the same as twenty years ago. We do not let our past define who we are today as Mississippians. Changing the flag has proven how far we as a state have come. Our constant push to build one another up is what will bring us together when we need it the most as it has with this new change. The new flag will redefine what our true purpose is as Mississippi. We are no longer a state that supports bigotry or white superiority. We are a state that fights for what is right in our world, and we have shown this by changing our own flag first. This represents a new chapter in Mississippi history will begin by repairing our image after the damage afflicted by racism and slavery. 

The reasons behind even considering changing the flag may not be so noble. After this year’s rise in movements for racial justice, like Black Lives Matter, prompted Mississippi lawmakers and voters to rethink their decisions. Alongside the movement, the NCAA Southeastern Conference also called on the state to replace the flag, stating that championship games will no longer be held in Mississippi unless changes are made and bills regarding the flag are passed. Under the pressure of major organizations, the voices of many living in Mississippi were finally heard by state legislators. However, lawmakers only placed the flag on the ballot. It was Mississippians who voted for it to come into existence, and their voices and desire for change are more important than a few lawmakers

The flag represents the constant improvement and progression of the state. This greatly represents what Mississippi is and can be. We are known as the hospitality state, and we need to live up to the name. However, we could not represent ourselves as a welcoming and hospitable state when we carried a flag that alludes to hate and racism. This is why the removal of the Confederate state flag gives Mississippi the chance to finally leave the dark past behind in light of a new chapter in the state’s history.

Once the new flag was passed, Mississippians acknowledged the important change to the state. Many supported the idea of a new flag compared to the thoughts back in 2001, accepting it is time to leave the past behind. While the past remains as a reminder of the history the state holds, it should not be represented in the form of our flag. To many, the Confederate flag served as a reminder to Mississippians and individuals around the country about the state’s dark past. The Confederate emblem constitutes the painful history that has been carried forward, and the flag as a whole invokes a sense of fear within many. 

Ultimately, this flag is what has racially divided our state, which is why the push for change was necessary. Likewise, many also believed that the flag was one of the root causes of the hindrance of economic development and self-growth in the state. Especially in the time that we live in, where we constantly push for our voices to be heard in protecting our rights and promoting equality, the change we needed started from within — beginning with our flag. 

However, others continue to disapprove of the flag. Some say that keeping the past flag would humble us in the present. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and others once opposed the idea of replacing that flag, stating that the flag is a “banner for the present” and not the past. However, what they do not consider is the fact that the flag sets a stigma on Mississippi as the state that will never change or look away from its past. We are simply better than that, and to show our transition from our state’s past, we needed to replace our flag — to choose a flag that truly represents who we are as a state and as Mississippians. 

Other critics of the magnolia flag note that the design and color scheme are unsuitable, but this is simply an opinion that will vary from person to person. There is rarely any time when everyone agreed on a certain matter as important as replacing the flag. More importantly, the symbolism our magnolia flag represents is what matters to Mississippians. And because of this historic moment in Mississippi history, Mississippians will no longer have to bear the flag that once stood for Confederacy wherever they go. 

Now, we no longer have to look at our flag and feel shame and fear for our past — we have changed for a better future for our state. Those who continue to support keeping our previous Confederate flag are people that are stuck in the past, unwilling to accept the fact that Mississippi is changing for the better. We do not keep our past flag in order to remind us of what we have done in the past: keeping it will only bring about more pain and hurt to those who were affected and are continued to be affected by it. The new magnolia flag no longer symbolizes racism, slavery and the oppression of rights. Rather, it signals the start of a new beginning filled with significant progress that will go down in Mississippi history. While it took many years to reach this turning point, I am proud of how Mississippians were able to come together and advocate for change. This is only the first step in the right direction towards the betterment of our state, and if we continue to move forward in this way, Mississippi will hold a promising future, setting an example to inspire other states.