Banner of racism, ignorance

Mississippi flag: Vote to retain Confederate emblem shows state remains a backwater.

April 19, 2001

MISSISSIPPI has a bevy of problems that won't be solved overnight.

The state ranks next to last in preserving the well-being of children, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation report.

It ranks 50th in literacy and support of libraries. It's 49th in the ratio of physicians to citizens and 49th in teacher salaries.

So erasing the Confederate battle emblem from their state flag was an easy way for Mississippians to prove they're not the hicks everyone thinks they are. It was a chance to prove their ignorance is not conjoined with bigotry, a way to quiet some of the national laughter at their backwardness.

How sad that they didn't understand the opportunity they had, and instead voted this week to keep flying the Confederate "X," the moral equivalent of a swastika, above their state capitol.

Mississippians apparently thought it more important to preserve their link to a pitiful past that fair-minded people of all hues find insulting, threatening and just plain imbecilic.

Mississippi had a chance to adopt a new flag that would have honored the best of its heritage. But Mississippi voters rejected a flag that would have paid homage to the state's position as the nation's 20th state.

Twentieth, that is, in joining the union. It's still in last place by just about every other measure.

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