By DUVALIER MALONE
The Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam announced the removal of the General Robert E. Lee confederate statue as a way to begin the racial reconciliation and healing in Virginia. This comes days after the country is in unrest due to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the hands of White police officers as he was stating the words that are so familiar to many African Americans, “I can’t breathe”. Eric Garner died in the New York City on July 17, 2014, saying the same exact words, “I can’t breathe.”
Today, Mississippians cannot breathe with the confederate flag hanging as the official state flag in Mississippi. Nor can Mississippians breathe while confederate symbols of hate are validated through state holidays and the leadership of the State of Mississippi. While other Governors and leaders are taking bold steps to bring down the confederate symbols and unify their state, will Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves follow?
It is no secret that Mississippi is a place where the struggle for racial harmony has been particularly tough and violent. Every state in the union has done the right and human thing of removing the confederate symbol from their official state flags.
The Mississippi confederate flag is a symbol of hate and division. This flag was hung on trees in which many of my ancestors were hung and murdered under this banner of hate. Let’s not forget young Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy traveling from Chicago who was kidnapped and murdered in Money, Mississippi for whispering at a White woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, who later admitted she lied. Mississippi has a lot of blood on its hands.
In order for true healing and racial reconciliation, Reeves must use his executive power and take down the Mississippi confederate flag and all other confederate symbols of hate. I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it until everyone listens: The confederate symbol is neither noble nor righteous. It represents bigotry, hatred, and murder. Reeves must show the world that he stands firm against intolerance. Mississippi can’t move forward unless he first is willing to take a stand to remove the Mississippi confederate flag and all confederate symbols of hate immediately. This must become the new heritage of Mississippi. He has the opportunity to drive a national conversation and lead at the forefront in the struggle against intolerance.
By refusing to let go of racist symbols and images, Reeves is alienating an entire segment of Mississippi’s population. When the State provides a supportive prop for racism in Mississippi, it hurts all Mississippians.
Every year, Mississippi declares the third Monday in January as the Robert E. Lee Day, a state holiday which is celebrated on the same day as Martin Luther King’s Day. Every year, the state declares the last Monday of April as Confederate Memorial Day and April as Confederate Heritage Month. However, every year the state declares October as Racial Reconciliation Month in an attempt to carry the gospel of racial healing. How in the hell do you declare Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day as a state holiday and April as Confederate Heritage Month than attempt to carry the gospel of reconciliation in October? If Reeves is only willing to express empty declarations of reconciliation without making any real change, what’s the point? Reconciliation denotes action. The flag is offensive to African Americans. There is no debate on that. The confederate emblem must go.
Now is the time for Reeves to search his heart and pray to God in which he claims is leading his decisions in the state.
Take down the Mississippi confederate flag. Denounce the Robert E. Lee and confederate memorial state holidays. Reframe from declaring April as Confederate Heritage Month. Remove all confederate symbols of hate. This will truly begin the racial healing for the State of Mississippi.
This will send a message to the world that Mississippi will no longer support symbols of hate and are taking actions to change its dark past. Now is the time, more than ever, for Reeves to display his leadership and faith by taking down the all confederate symbols of hate in Mississippi. We are approaching 65 years of the death of Emmett Till, who was kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi and has yet to receive justice. Now is the time to honor the life and legacy of Emmett Till, George Floyd and the many African Americans who have been killed in America due to racism and hate.
Give a damn about the people of Mississippi. Take down the Mississippi confederate flag and create a Mississippi flag for all Mississippians. Denounce the Robert E. Lee day in Mississippi and allow Mississippians to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day without the shadow of hate. Denounce the Confederate Memorial Day and replace it with an Emmett Till Day as a state holiday to honor his life and legacy for what his life did for the civil rights movement.
So, I ask Reeves to search his heart. Do you believe in good faith that the God of love, faith and hope would want the confederate flag to stay as the symbol that represents the State of Mississippi? Remove all confederate symbols of hate and create a new day for all Mississippians.
Duvalier Malone is the author of “Those Who Give A Damn: A Manual for Making a Difference,” a motivational speaker, a community activist who has organized numerous of rallies to attempt to bring down the confederate flag in Mississippi, and CEO of Duvalier Malone Enterprises, a global consulting firm. He lives in Washington, D.C.