Earlier today a Federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to have the Confederate battle emblem on the Mississippi flag declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery. According to U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves the plaintiff was unable to show that the flag had caused a “cognizable legal injury.” The Confederate Heritage folks will certainly applaud the decision, but they probably shouldn’t get too excited about the outcome.
The judge may have found the plaintiff’s argument to be unconvincing, but that did not prevent him from speaking out on the history and meaning of the battle flag itself.
First, a history lesson in form of a reference to Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession: “‘Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.'”
He went on to say: “To put it plainly, Mississippi was so devoted to the subjugation of African-Americans that it sought to form a new nation predicated upon white supremacy.”
On the legacy of the flag: “The emblem offends more than just African-Americans. Mississippians of all creeds and colors regard it as ‘one of the most repulsive symbols of the past.’ It is difficult to imagine how a symbol borne of the South’s intention to maintain slavery can unite Mississippians in the 21st century.”
The Confederate battle emblem has no place in shaping a New Mississippi, and is better left retired to history. For that change to happen through the judiciary, however, the Confederate battle emblem must have caused a cognizable legal injury. In this case no such injury has been articulated. Whether that could be shown in a future case, or whether ‘the people themselves’ will act to change the state flag, remains to be seen.
The judge clearly believes that a future case could demonstrate such an injury, but with each passing day more and more Mississippians appear to be aligning themselves with his hope that such a case will be unnecessary.