Ole Miss Student Senate Votes to Remove State Flag

Just when you thought the wave of reports about Confederate flag removals had crested, we get hit by another one. Last week Florida’s state senate voted to remove the Confederate from its official seal. In Greene County, Tennessee a county commissioner proposed raising a Confederate flag in front of the courthouse, which was overwhelmingly voted down. Maryland will likely join Virginia in banning the Confederate flag from license plates. And among the “Heritage, Not Hate” crowd fifteen members of a group calling itself, “Respect the Flag” were indicted on terrorism charges following an incident that took place in Georgia over the summer.

Finally, today comes word that the University of Mississippi’s Student Senate has voted overwhelmingly to remove the state flag, which includes the Confederate flag in its design. I did not know that four other public universities in Mississippi have already taken similar steps. Whether the administration supports this vote has yet to be decided, but one thing is clear and that is the Confederate flag has no future in public places in the South.

No number of pickup trucks parading through town with Confederate flags attached is going to change this verdict.

29 comments add yours

  1. “Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come.” ~Victor Hugo paraphrased from “One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.” The time has come. This Southern Girl is happy to see it!

  2. It is interesting to note that just like in so many other places, the people who showed up to protest the vote…”Nonstudents identifying themselves with the International Keystone Knights — a Ku Klux Klan affiliate — and the League of the South staged a counter rally, which led to heated exchanges between the two groups, NAACP members and other students.” So sadly typical of this “not racist” symbol.

    • The last few months have been quite a crucible for assaying the heritage movement. The vigorous (and sometimes angry) debate has brought out some of the uglier aspects of fealty to the old Confederacy, that most heritage folks have routinely denied (including to themselves) were part of their “movement.” Well, they’ve always been there, and it’s plainer now to see than it ever has been. They are just having a much harder time of denying their presence.

  3. The other three universities are all smaller, historically black schools that haven’t flown the flag for awhile. I’m still waiting on the other two major universities to do so. They’ve both passed resolutions calling for the flag to change so I suspect it won’t be long until all three take it down.

    • Great piece, thanks for the link! I would like to see southern communities put up (in the appropriate places) displays of regimental and battery colors rather than fly the artificial flag so many associate with the Confederacy.

        • I like the Magnolia Flag. I had never seen it before, again – good find.

        • Andy,
          The newest revelation on that front is the local heritage groups, including Greg Stewart and the SCV, are trying to kill the idea of returning to the Magnolia flag before it becomes too popular. Some have even called the idea of reinstating the Magnolia flag treason and capitulation.

          Some legislators are floating the idea as a compromise and it has supporters on both sides of the aisle and among some black and white legislators. However, neo-confederates are totally against it.

          It’s someone ironic that the “history and heritage” bunch is going to kill off the one state flag being offered with real history and heritage. I suppose we will get a new design of some sort and that’s ok with me.

  4. Cute, but meaningless exercise by the student senate. It is non-binding and more importantly it can’t go into effect because it violates Mississippi State Law. I get the desire to push for change and I applaud the effort but time has taught me that such reactions are limited in scope and effect. Change won’t come from ole Miss outward, it will have to come from the farms and towns of the ordinary people to take effect. In time, it just might.

    • I disagree. I think this step must be understood along with everything else the school has done over the past few years to face its past.

      • Perhaps I wrote poorly thus leading to your misunderstanding. I applaud the step and the simple nature of this exercise in democracy. What I am implying is that meaningless acts by university students will not change the hearts of Mississippi voters (you know the one’s that voted overwhelmingly to keep the state flag). That change will have to come from farmers and small town people, some of whom may never agree.

        I am not from Mississippi, have never lived there, and frankly I don’t care what they do with their flag. I agree with you and others in the heart of the matter over display of the Confederate flag in government buildings (while standing steadfastly opposed to the Stalinist-like push to eliminate all symbols of that era as “racists”) but tricks like this simply don’t work. Please allow me to expand on this a bit.

        In 2002 the army ordered me back to active duty and shipped me off to Afghanistan. Just before leaving I was in DC and saw a lone woman outside the White House protesting the war. For some reason it struck me and I have loosely followed her. Sometimes she has a few dozen supporters, at one time maybe a hundred or so. Since 2002 I have served in twice more in Iraq and once more in Afghanistan – and still that lady sits out there. I packed friends into body bags and sent their remains home. I even had the ghastly task of informing parents that their son or daughter will never come home again. And still that lady was out there. Not even seven days ago the president that promised he would get us out extended our troop presence – and still she is out there. In the hard calculus of American politics she has accomplished…nothing.

        I admire here courage. I cheer for her as she shouts against the wind, but the minds she needs to change are not in that one little residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are everywhere else. The students at the University aren’t looking to change anything, they are looking to make a statement – and one that is trapped in time and place. If they care, they should fan out across Mississippi and offer seminars and meeting calling for change to the flag. They should take their arguments to the people, not to each other.

        MLK did not simply talk to the believers, he talked to the country. His followers didn’t host marches in friendly neighborhoods, they marched into the very face of local racism. Their bravery and steadfastness changed – even if only slightly – the people of those places. MLK knew what the students at Ole Miss don’t. The university isn’t racist and never was…the people who went there, however, were. For 13 years I have watched one lone woman call for change but do nothing to make it happen – and that is what this student senate vote means unless they take the conversation directly to the people that matter.

        • Hi Patrick.

          Thanks for the follow up. I see this a bit differently. The students are working to push their immediate community in a different direction. That hasn’t been an easy task given its history. Whether this has a broader impact has yet to be seen. I tend to think that what we are seeing are signs of what the future holds, yes, even in Mississippi.

          What I am implying is that meaningless acts by university students will not change the hearts of Mississippi voters (you know the one’s that voted overwhelmingly to keep the state flag).

          I don’t see this as a meaningless act and I certainly don’t believe the students do.

          • Hi Kevin,

            I am sure you are right about the students. As a former, and now sometimes temporary, history professor I understand the ardor of young students. I tried my best to use history to teach them that to make change you must participate where change needs to happen. The people of Mississippi may very well change their minds but that change will be carried by voices willing to talk directly with them, not in the limited safety of a university student governing body.

    • I must disagree as well. Three other Mississippi universities as well as a long list of Mississippi cities took the state flag down months ago, some even years ago. I don’t think it’s a law that the flag must be flown on state/city property, although I could be wrong. If it is, it’s definitely not being enforced. Every one of these actions, and especially the vote last night, sends a message to lawmakers (and the world) that unlike fifteen years ago, those who want to keep the flag may not be the majority any more, that opinions are changing for the better.

      Those who want to keep the flag commonly use the argument that the issue was voted on in 2001 and that should be the end of the discussion. They fail to acknowledge young people 18-30 who couldn’t vote then but can now. They come from the farms and towns you are speaking of. With all due respect, you aren’t giving us enough credit. Mississippi has plenty of bright, young people of all races who are ready to move forward. We ARE talking about it in our communities and families. I had a conversation about it last night with my mom, who is nearly 70, asked, “what good is changing the flag going to do?” I told her exactly what it’s going to do. I’m seeing the opinions of Mississippians slowly change. It’s happening. Admittedly, it has been slow coming and more education is definitely needed but we are on the right path. Kevin is right, this is definitely a “sign of what the future holds,” a BIG sign. Are there enough young people on board if it came down to a vote? I’m not sure but I do know the vote would be much, much closer than it was in 2001. With a little more education, I think it can absolutely be done.

  5. The more the heritage community screams and launches protests over the CBF, the more their racist ideas are exposed as well as their lack of knowledge regarding history. They are working extra hard to accelerate their own demise through their words and actions. In addition, their rhetoric also reflects that most of their beliefs are tied to modern politics than actual history.

    The nation is changing. It is throwing away the shackles of racism and white supremacy. It is embracing equality which is consistent with the principles involved in the founding of the nation. A road was chosen in 1865 and while it has had many turns and twists, the direction has been towards freedom, liberty, and equality. White supremacy rejects all three of those concepts and is not in keeping with democracy.

    Unfortunately, some people just can’t accept the fact that the people have chosen this path.

    • Jimmy, please do not confuse the heritage community with the racists at the KKK or elements of the SCV. There are many hard working and dedicated people in the heritage community that have nothing to do with the confederate flag or even the civil war.

        • Well Kevin, that is a great point. I looked up some the “usual suspects” like the Sons of Union Veterans, the Daughters (and Sons) of the American Revolution, and even the Society of the Cincinnati. None have offered an opinion on this matter. I think with the colonial societies the issue might run quite deep – they are the descendants of rebels whose descendants became rebels – it is not that easy to cast them out with the contemporary brush of “traitor.”

          The Union folks, however, seem to have less an excuse. This might be because they don’t want to cause a fuss or because they fear they could readily become targets of this lust for cleansing our past of the parts we don’t like. In any case, it is well worth thinking about and a wonderful puzzle.

          • Then again, it might be because none of those groups support racist themes like most of the Confederate heritage types do. This is not about whitewashing history. It is about presenting historically correct history which Confederate heritage seems to avoid at all costs.

  6. This news out of Ole Miss helps ease the pain of the atrocious gridiron loss to Memphis this past Saturday. :/

    Seriously, excellent post and I agree 100%.

  7. I live in Oxford and graduated from Ole Miss. What the students did is a testament to how far Ole Miss has progressed. In fact, Ole Miss and the city of Oxford are driving this issue in Mississippi. the Oxford city council voted unanimously (7-0) to remove the state flag from city property a few months ago. We are not the Ole Miss or Oxford of the 1960’s, and you will not find a confederate flag in the city of Oxford!

    The factuality senate is taking up this issue Thursday where it is expected to pass easily. The acting chancellor also supports the removal of the state flag.

    The university has issued several statements calling for the legislature to change the flag.

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