Monday, July 24, 2023

State Flag Conspiracy

There's a fairly popular myth that woke liberal politicians broke in and changed the Mississippi state flag in the middle of the night, despite the people's wishes.  There are a couple of problems with this theory, the first being that there are only about eleven woke liberal politicians in the Mississippi state legislature.  They're not very organized, and they usually go out at night.  Sometimes all night.  While that might warm the heart of Mississippi's most conservative souls, it's just not what happened.

Lauren Stennis devoted a fair portion of her life to changing the Mississippi State Flag.  Lauren was to the left of me on many issues, and we often didn't agree on things, but on this, we did.  I made every effort to very visible support her efforts.  I believed it was important.  Lauren deserved a win on this.  She did the work.  She was tireless and devoted, and she was, more than anything else, right.  You should have been able to tell your grandchildren about the woman that changed Mississippi's history, it would have made me and a lot of other people very happy, but that's not what happened.  The referendum Lauren fought for lost.  It lost by a much larger margin than any of us expected.

The story's not over, though.  The same battle over the South Carolina flag was heating up.  Students in South Carolina started demanding that the NCAA take a stand.  The NCAA isn't a hotbed of woke liberals, either.  They'd really rather do anything than deal with stuff like this.  Somebody at the NCAA did a head count, though, and it was pretty evident that there were an awful lot more descendants of federal soldiers and Confederate slaves playing football, basketball, and baseball than there were descendants of Confederate soldiers.  Some of these descendants of Confederate Slaves were saying things like they would boycott games in or with South Carolina teams if they didn't change their flag.

The NCAA is about playing football, and this business in South Carolina was threatening that.  The NCAA said, "Y'all gotta change," to which South Carolina said, "Screw you!" and that's when the NCAA said, "Until you change, we won't sanction any championship games in your state.  With protests increasing in the state and pressure from the NCAA, South Carolina capitulated.  The attention then turned to Mississippi.

In Mississippi, the chancellor of Ole Miss (New Miss, according to James Meridith) wanted nothing to do with a fight over the confederate flag.  His position was that it was needlessly divisive and had nothing to do with improving the university experience.  He was right.  His solution was to get rid of the confederate flag but keep the name "rebels."  That seemed to appease nearly everyone.  

After the flag referendum failed and the University of Mississippi cooperated, the NCAA turned its attention to the state capitol and threatened the same sanctions they used on South Carolina, starting with taking away championship games and then becoming more punitive from there.  

Threatening Confederate symbology is one thing.  Threatening football is another.  Very soon, the college board, College presidents (both public and private), and college coaches began pressuring the Governor, the Speaker, and the lt. Governor (all Republicans) to do something.  Universities and colleges began refusing to fly the state flag.  Some cities refused to fly the state flag.  Governor Bryant started looking for a way out of this.  Finally, at the end of June 2020, the Republican legislature of Mississippi and the Republican governor retired the Mississippi state flag.  They did it in hopes we could get back to business.

A lot of people still have copies of the Stennis flag, now known as the "hospitality flag."  In my mind, Lauren will always get credit for this, even though it didn't work out the way she wanted.  Conservative Republicans changed the Mississippi state flag because they loved football more than the confederacy.  I haven't a bit of a problem with that.  Mississippi doesn't ever do things in a straightforward way, but sometimes we get them done some other way.

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