GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The current Mississippi state flag flew outside of Gulfport City Hall until it was taken down on June 16th. Since then, rallies, protests and demonstrations have taken place against the controversial banner. But some South Mississippians feel that taking down the flag might not be the right decision for all.
“You know, I’m not really wed to one or the other. If they keep it, you know, I’m fine with it and everything. If they decide to change it, I’ll be fine with that as well,” said lifelong South Mississippian, Dane David. A decision to change the stage flag, David says, can’t be made by an elected governing body. To protect the fabric of democracy, it must be put to a vote. “I just hope that if they do decide to change it, that they give the voting public to maybe, if not just vote it up or down based on the merit of the flag that exists now, but give us choices, two or three different types of flags to pick from,” David said.
“I think if the change is forced through the legislature and signed by the Governor, I believe that there will be a big backlash. You’ll probably see a lot more of, not only the state flag, but unfortunately the Confederate flag because a lot of people that do still support the flag will feel as if their voice has been usurped, in a way,” he said. “19 years ago was the last vote, so I think it’s overdue. People change, mindsets change and I don’t believe that there’s nearly as many people that are as adamant about keeping the flag as it is, I believe now is a good time to come back to it, review it and maybe give us a chance to replace it something a little more welcoming for the entirety of the state and everyone that lives within in,” David told WLOX.
A vote on the issue is a common opinion among some South Mississippians. “People, who are against the design, if they want the design to change, I think it should be brought to a vote. If the legislators were to just put it on the ballot, it would be a lot easier for everybody. Why people don’t want to take it to another vote, that’s a whole other issue, which requires a whole lot more discussion. The issue about the state flag is so simple, that people must make it complicated or else you wouldn’t have a story. People voted. It should be flown on state and public properties and that’s the end of that discussion,” said Gulfport resident, DeBorah Simpson.
Simpson likened the controversy over the state flag, and its link to crimes across the country, to other issues where blood is shed. “Should they take away our cars? People get run over by drunk drivers, don’t they? Isn’t that a crime? Maybe, we shouldn’t use those brands of cars that drunk drivers use to kill people,” Simpson explained.
The history and heritage of the Confederate battle flag also mean a great deal to Simpson.
“We came here from Texas, and I had no idea what the Mississippi state flag was when we were in Texas. When we moved here, I heard there was a kerfuffle about the state flag and the design. So, we looked into it and that’s how we found out about the vote and everything like that,” said Simpson. “We were still living in Texas when Dylann Roof and all of that foolishness happened. He’s a criminal. Period. There’s no doubt about that. Everybody agrees. But how people responded because he had a battle flag in his residence in the background of a picture that we all saw... that news went nationwide and we talked about it in Texas as well,” Simpson said.
“Because, a long time ago, even when I was young, I never had an issue about the Confederate battle flag. I had to make a choice about what was gonna upset me in life and the battle flag wasn’t one of them that was gonna upset me. So, when I saw the canton in the Mississippi state flag, I said, ‘Aw Mississippi’s cool’ you know, ‘They have that battle flag in their canton,’ which told me that they’ve progressed,” Simpson said. “Then, I moved here and saw that people haven’t progressed. How can you be subjugated, when you have the free will to stand up and say you’ve been,” Simpson questioned.
The issue, especially for women Simpson said, comes down to the all-powerful vote.
“This issue about the flag is not about the design, the design that was chosen by an election. Do you understand how important elections are, for us in particular? Women suffered such extreme assault at the turn of the last century— for us to have the right to vote. To damage that process in any kind of way is an insult to those women. The vote is very special to me, personally. I call it our 18th birthday present, for every citizen, from your government. It really is a gift, paid for by someone else, with a really high price tag. To put any kind of obstacle in the electoral process is an affront to all of those people who suffered so we could have that right. So, when the people in Mississippi voted for that design, and I hear people who say we don’t like that design... whining like children in the grocery store who want that box of cereal, ‘Momma says no,' and they throw themselves on the floor... that’s what these people sound like to me. It’s absurd,” Simpson said.
“You can have an arsenal of guns in your house, but it will not be as powerful a weapon as your vote. Your vote is the equalizer in our country. The richest man in our country, the poorest man in our country, who is waiting in the soup kitchen, who is a citizen, and everybody in between has one vote. Each one has the same weight. That gives me chills every time I say it. People want an equal playing field... keep our vote and the process of our vote sacred, keep it safe, keep the integrity of that process... keep it and then you will have what we call an equal playing field,” Simpson said.
Governor Tate Reeves also said in a tweet, “If the leadership in 2001 had not put it on the ballot, then the conversation might be different. But they did. And therefore we must work together to find a solution... that unites us as people... proud of our future.”