When confused philosopher king Kanye West rapped, “racism’s still alive, they just be concealing it...” on “Never Let Me Down” from his debut offering, The College Dropout, he was not talking about Mississippi. Or Alabama or South Carolina or, well, you get the point. Regarding Mississippi specifically, it is the last state in the union that still includes the Confederate Battle flag as part of its official state flag.
You know the one. It’s the flag that white Southerners (and some wayward black folks) claim is heritage, not hate. Anywho, recently there’s been a push to redesign the state flag of Mississippi since a state representation that so arduously holds on to a racist past has to be bad for business. Such was the thinking of one Laurin Stennis, a Jackson, Miss., artist and granddaughter of United States Senator John C. Stennis, an ardent segregationist for most of his life who voted against making Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a federal holiday and the elimination of poll taxes.
Anyway, according to the Clarion-Ledger, Stennis designed a recreation of the state flag, minus the Confederate flag that “has red vertical bars on each side and a white center with a large blue star encircled by 19 smaller ones, representing Mississippi as the 20th state.”
The state hasn’t changed the state flag, but apparently some in the state have urged moving to the “Stennis” flag for many reasons.
“What is the role of a state flag? In this day and age, it is marketing and branding,” Laurin Stennis, 46, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “If any company or any corporation had a symbol that hurt its morale and its bottom line the way ours does, they’d change it immediately.”
Look at all of that common sense. Well, apparently from her mouth to God’s ears, or something, because Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill recently allowing the sale of several new speciality license plates, and one such plate would include the proposed state flag dubbed the “Stennis flag.”
Starting on July 1 and for an additional $30, if you’re a license plate holder in Mississippi, you will be able to purchase a license plate that includes a version of your state flag that doesn’t include overt racism and a direct tie to the state’s desire to maintain the Southern status quo, or as many spin it, a states’ rights agenda...to maintain slavery. That $30 will go towards the maintenance of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which, gotdamn, must be a doozy.
As a point of note (and this bodes well for those in the state who hate the Confederate flag), while the state voted to keep the Confederate emblem as part of the Mississippi state flag back yonder in 2001—it’s been the official flag since 1894—many of the state’s cities, counties and all eight of the state’s public universities have stopped flying the state flag because of the inclusion of the emblem many view as a sign of hate. And many homes in the state already fly the “Stennis flag” as opposed to the official state flag.
What does it all mean? We may not know for many years because change comes slowly in certain parts of this country. But as Sam Cooke said, “a change is gon’ come.” And more importantly, if a citizen of Mississippi wants a license plate with the state flag on it, they will soon be able to get one without a racist emblem.
Now that’s how you move towards concealing it.