Bicentennial banner picking up support

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The Mississippi Economic Council's bicentennial banner flies at the Dogwood branch of BancorpSouth.

Gabriel Austin, Mississippi Today

The Mississippi Economic Council’s bicentennial banner flies at the Dogwood branch of BancorpSouth.

Flying a bicentennial banner in place of the current state flag is gaining popularity among Mississippi businesses, communities and universities.

Unveiled by the Mississippi Economic Council in October, the banner already is being flown or is planned to be flown in several locations:

• The Tupelo City Council voted unanimously this week to fly the bicentennial banner instead of the state flag in front of its new police headquarters opening later this month.

• The University of Mississippi will fly the bicentennial banner on its Oxford campus from at least Dec. 9, 2016, to Dec. 10, 2017, the official bicentennial date.

• Delta State University is flying the bicentennial banner at its main entrance in Cleveland after lowering the state flag in early November.

• Tupelo-based BancorpSouth is flying the banner at multiple Mississippi branch locations.

Speaker of the Mississippi House Philip Gunn

Gil Ford Photography

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton

“This clearly shows that there is a desire among a growing number of Mississippians and entities to explore other options than the current state flag,” House Speaker Philip Gunn said in a statement. “The statement I made before is the same way I feel today. I want to find a solution that represents all Mississippians.”

Mississippi’s state flag is the only official state emblem in the nation that displays the Confederate battle flag.

The bicentennial banner features the state seal on three horizontal red, white and blue bars. The left side of the flag reads, “Established 1817” and on the right “2017 Bicentennial.” Mississippi is the last state in the nation to fly the Confederate battle flag in an official capacity.

In Tupelo this week, council members voted unanimously to fly the bicentennial banner at the new police headquarters. Some council members resisted the idea of flying the current state flag.

“I don’t feel I can ever support the state flag going up in Tupelo because it is divisive and insulting to me as a citizen,” Tupelo Councilwoman Nettie Davis told the Daily Journal. “It does not represent all the people of this state or community.”

Ole Miss removed the state flag from campus in 2015, after a student-led campaign that saw the university administration sponsor removing the flag and placing it in university archives.

Spokesman Jon Scott said the university will begin flying the bicentennial banner next week to commemorate the anniversary of the state entering the union. The university will also host events celebrating the bicentennial, he said.

BancorpSouth, a $14 billion publicly traded regional bank with 239 locations in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas, first lowered the state flag in 2015. Company spokesman Randy Burchfield said this week the bank is flying the bicentennial banner at multiple branch locations around the state.

“We are flying the state’s bicentennial banner in celebration of the state’s upcoming 200th anniversary of statehood, along with the American flag,” Burchfield said.

MEC staffers unfurl a Mississippi bicentennial banner.

Adam Ganucheau | Mississippi Today

MEC staffers unfurl a Mississippi bicentennial banner.

When the banner was unveiled, MEC President Blake Wilson was clear to point out: “This is a banner, not a flag.” But afterward, he told Mississippi Today that the banner might spur conversations about other alternatives to the current state flag.

“You’ve got a brand that disenfranchises 37 percent of your population (who are African Americans), so why would you use that brand?” Wilson asked. “It’s not a brand that brings people together.”

Wilson added: “We’re not pushing or suggesting this is an alternative flag. But what we’re saying is this might be a way to celebrate one banner. Where it goes after that, what discussion that helps stimulate, what that helps gravitate to, we’ll just have to see what people have to say.”

Gov. Phil Bryant, after his speech at the Neshoba County Fair in July, first told Mississippi Today of the bicentennial banner. Bryant suggested the banner could fly above the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, slated to open in 2017 in Jackson.

“People will start acclimating themselves to it (after we unveil it),” Bryant said in July. “And since it’s a banner, state agencies can fly it, city halls can fly it, you know like the POW things you see. It’s a banner.”

Bryant’s office did not respond to questions this week about the banner gaining wider acceptance.

Mississippi Today asked Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who has said Mississippi voters should decide whether to change the state flag, whether he envisioned the banner flying alongside the state flag at state agencies.

“I am not aware of any conversations among state leadership regarding banners not sanctioned by the laws of the State of Mississippi flying on state property,” Reeves’ spokeswoman Laura Hipp said in a statement. “Obviously, we would have to research the legal ramifications of state agencies flying banners created by nonprofit entities, but it seems like a slippery slope.”

Politicians, business leaders and Mississippi citizens have debated the merits of the current state flag for more than 15 years. In 2001, a ballot initiative sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council led to a nasty campaign. Mississippians voted almost 2-to-1 then to keep the current state flag in place.

But the politics surrounding the Confederate battle flag have changed since then – most notably in 2015, when a gunman killed nine people in a black church in South Carolina. The shooter affiliated himself closely with the flag. In response, South Carolina and Alabama permanently lowered the Confederate battle flag which had been flown in official capacities on state property.

Determining how to handle the flag in Mississippi was widely considered a key issue going into the 2016 legislative session after Gunn publicly stated the state should change the flag. But during the session, 19 bills that dealt with the state flag died in committee before making it to the floors for votes.

The issue is expected to be taken up again in the 2017 regular session, which begins Jan. 3.

See the bicentennial banner flying? Email us at [email protected]

  • Otis

    The Bicentennial Banner is much more representative of all Mississippians than the current design.

    I don’t begrudge anyone respect for their ancestors, but the confederate battle flag has no place representing the entire state. I don’t want a clinched, black, fist on the state flag either. All that black Mississippians want is the same respect and consideration everyone else gets.

    My personal opinion is the best way to protect confederate iconography is to keep it out of a fire storm of controversy. The one common thread in conflicts over confederate symbols is their use in public spaces. By that I mean either in a position of political power as on our state flag or in a public space where it could be seen as representing everybody. The problem is to find a respectful middle path so those who support these symbols are not accused of bigotry and those who object to them are not insulted. This is where leadership comes into play and we are not getting it from Phil Bryant, Tate Reeves, or anyone in the legislature. To make matters worse, groups like the SCV attack anyone who wants to change the flag and some on the other side think everyone who displays the battle flag is a Klansman. This needs to stop! There’s plenty of “push back” by both sides and not enough honest dialogue.

    I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask for the flag to change. Doing so is not an insult to confederate heritage. Also, it is not unreasonable to protect confederate monuments and give them historical context.

    I understand some white Mississippians confederate ancestors are important to them, and I can honestly respect that view. These men served bravely in the service of the confederacy as they understood their duty. These men were peiople of their time and should be given the respect that entails. I have no desire to deny anyone their own heritage, dishonor their legacy or smear their ancestors. I sincerely hope people can believe me.

    However, the state flag should represent everybody in Mississippi and the current design fails to do this. Since I am black, I have a much different view of confederate iconography than many white Mississippians and my view is based on a much different experience. My experience and family heritage is just as real as theirs, so I only ask that they grant me the same respect I grant them.

    My only desire is to find a state flag to represent everyone. As I have stated before, I fully support anyone’s right to display the confederate flag in any manner they choose.
    I do hope we, as Mississippians, can find a path through this issue together. It may not be easy of comfortable for either of us, but I honestly believe we can find a way out if people of both sides of this issue try to understand and respect the position and views of the other.

    • George Lincol Rockwell

      Kind words but honestly you are as full of —- as your more extreme black-coddling leftists. Do you respect the election process? I am sure you did not vote for Trump, but do you support Trump as president? If you do then you need to respect Mississippi’s state flag as it was voted on by a 2-1 margin to remain Mississippi’s state flag. If you do not then that is what I expect from the left-someone who disrespects the will of the people.

      • Otis

        The same way some southerners respected the election of 1860?

        • Adam

          Otis, are you suggesting the supporters of a new state flag have their homes burned to the ground and an economic embargo imposed upon them?

          • Otis

            More like a group of slave-holding aristocrats who ignored “the will of the people” in the presidential election of 1860 because they didn’t like the results.

          • Adam

            Um, you just compared proponents of a new flag to slave holding aristocrats? Ok. Interesting argument. So again, should proponents of a new state flag have their homes burned to the ground because they went against the tide of popular opinion just like proponents of secession in 1860?

          • Otis

            Please save the straw-man hyperbole and carefully read my post. I made no reference to new flag proponents.

            The planters in the south who profited most from chattel slavery rejected the outcome of the election of 1860 and sought disunion.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1860

          • John C. Calhoun

            Lincoln won 39.8% of the popular vote. That means the three other main candidates won 60.2% of the vote. The election was as sharply divided as it could be regionally. Lincoln was not even on the ballot in several Southern states. Does this sound like the will of the people, Oiis? What kind of a name is that for a negro anyway?

          • Otis

            Lincoln won. Get over it. 🙂

          • John Lee Jones

            He was making a point about the popular vote which you cannot seem to wrap your mind around. In fact, you can’t seem to understand anything anyone tells you about history. You seem to know facts but don’t know the story behind them. BTW, John Lee Jones IS my real name and I am not ‘skeered,’ whatever ghetto slang that is.

          • Otis

            George Lincoln Rockwell, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, John C. Calhoun, John Lee Jones … and all the other fake names you post under. Whatever!

            Most bigots are cowards at heart and not very intelligent. I can see you’re no different.

            You can go ahead and have the last word. I’m sure it’s not good for your ego to be embarrassed by a black man.

            Be blessed

          • John Lee Jones

            Oh, so now you are saying John Lee Jones is not my real name? How arrogantly left wing of you. Can you prove it? Thought not. As for hate it is all coming from your side. You are too hate filled to see that though. Your side hates everything about White people-you hate the White race. All your side does is bitch about how bad Whites have treated you yet you want to integrate with us everywhere.

            The next time you want to label someone a hater, look in the mirror.

          • Otis

            I don’t hate anyone. Please read my original post.

            You are the one insulting people and using bigoted language.

          • John Lee Jones

            The only ‘person’ I have insulted her is you. And you deserve it and much more than I have dished at you. I have no clue about what fake names you are talking about. I have only posted under my one real name. I asked you to prove otherwise and you ignored me, which is another sign of a typical spoiled crybaby liberal negro. No amount of your diversion can steer away from the fact you want to subvert the political process and ignore the 2-1 vote of the people to keep the Mississippi State Flag with the Confederate Battle Flag. If it had gone 2-1 against you would be here screaming about that as a reason to change the flag. Again, either way you want to go against the vote of the people. Why can’t you just admit that?

          • Otis

            You are obviously incapable of engaging in a civil or intelligent conversation, and going in circles with you is pointless.

            I have better things to do than entertain a bigot like you.

            Have a good one.

          • John Lee Jones

            BLAH BLAH BLAH says the anti-White hating racist who wants to rid his state of pro-White heritage. Aww he got his widdle feeling hurt again. Wah wah wah.

        • John C. Calhoun

          No, I was thinking along the lines of the way your negro-coddling allies on the left are respecting the current presidential election. Riots, assassination threats against Trump and encouraging rape against his wife, vandalizing public and private property, assaulting White Trump supporters, blocking traffic, initiating ridiculous recounts that are a waste of money and time and change nothing, and most pertinent to our discussion, Otis, states like California openly talking SECESSION because the vote didn’t go their way. I could go on, sir negro, but I think I have made my point.

          • Otis

            Why hide behind fake names. You “skeerd”?

          • Otis
          • Otis

            A few disgruntled people in California “talking” about secession (as ridiculous as it sounds) is a far cry from slave owners who actually did it in 1860. It didn’t work the first time around either.

            You have a good one and be blessed.

          • John Lee Jones

            You must be on crack. He was talking about how your allies, who love you colored folks so much, are disrespecting the political process with their anti-Trump temper tantrums as you are with your hyperbole about non-binding referendums. I bet if the vote went 2-1 against the Mississippi flag back in 2001 you would be hollering about that at the top of your lungs and using that as an example of why the flag needs to be changed. So either way you have no respect for the people, especially White people. As far as what won’t work, how insightful are you to know that secession will not work? You have heard of Reconquista, have you not, super duper magical negro? The mestizos are a majority in mexifornia now. The Southwest is targeted to return to Mexico with the continued invasion of mestizos. So it is more than a ‘few disgruntled people talking about secession.’

            BTW, you do look like that colored fellow that is holding the Mississippi banner in the pic. What an ugly rage that is.

          • Otis

            So attempting to breakup the nation after the election of 1860 in a failed effort to protect chattel slavery isn’t “disrespecting the political process” in your estimation.

            I’m not laughing with you, I’m laughing AT you.

          • John Lee Jones

            Again, you must be on crack. I can explain it, but apparently I cannot make you understand it. Your side disrespects the political process when the vote goes against you and thinks that’s okay, like you are doing now with the flag referendum and your side is doing after Trump’s election. When Southerners broke away after the 1860 election, which was far more divisive than this flag referendum and far more serious, it was to protect White Southerners against the yankee abolitionists who wanted to free 4 million negroes that would proceed to murder Southern Whites wholesale. You of course do not see that as okay. Lincoln did not come close to winning the majority of the popular vote and did not even get on the ballot in most Southern States. Trump did not win the majority vote either but at least he was on the ballot in all 50 states and DC. And the popular vote was much closer this time percentage wise. Besides, what are you bitching about? Whites freed your ass and the South lost. California will secede due to Reconquista. Whether you or I think it is okay or not (which I do) or whether you think it will happen or not it will happen. Good riddance.

          • Otis

            “…When Southerners broke away after the 1860 election, which was far more divisive than this flag referendum and far more serious, it was to protect White Southerners against the yankee abolitionists who wanted to free 4 million negroes that would proceed to murder Southern Whites wholesale. …”

            Thanks again for proving my original point. Be blessed.

          • John Lee Jones

            What exactly IS your original point? That you are a spoiled crybaby negro that isn’t getting his way or that you have no reason for changing the state flag except that it hurts your feelings? Or perhaps your original point is that you can play all sides and be the good guy and anyone that disagrees with you is a bigot. Well, I am not buying it. You are an anti-White bigot no matter what you claim.

  • Otis

    Worth viewing and remembering.
    https://youtu.be/B7aPOJdqBvU

    • Otis

      Matthew 5:44 – But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

      I sincerely pray you can overcome the hate in your heart and move forward with your life. I also hope you find the courage to stop hiding behind fake names. You are obviously ashamed of the hate you are spewing and know it is wrong. God bless.