On Flag Day (June 14), McComb, Miss., native and actress Aunjanue Ellis (Quantico, The Help) is taking the fight against the state’s flag all the way to the nation’s capital. Ellis will be joined by Michael Eric Dyson, musician Genesis Be and attorney Carlos Moore, along with lawmakers, celebrities and civic leaders from across the country.
Moore made national headlines in February when he filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant. Moore argued that the flag violates the equal protection and due process clauses in the Constitution and incites “acts of violence.” Two months later, Bryant designated April Confederate Heritage Appreciation Month.
“There’s a growing campaign to take down the Mississippi state flag—the last flag in the Union with the Confederate battle emblem,” Tenisha Bell, publicist for Take It Down America, tells The Root. “We all know what the Confederate battle emblem represents: hatred, death, slavery, Jim Crow. The time for the flag to come down is now.”
The state has refused to disavow the Confederacy, holding on for over 150 years to the most inhumane, racist and violent institution this country has ever known, an institution still evident in the systemic racism that shapes the state today. Dixiecrat and Republican lawmakers continue to hide behind lack of consensus as the reason they romanticize an era of blood-soaked cotton and strange fruit, while proud flag-wavers frame their racism as legacy.
This flag harks back to a time when the lynchings and rapes of enslaved black people were considered proper Southern etiquette. It is a symbol of white supremacy, racial cowardice, exploitation and terrorism that, in many ways, still represents the moral bankruptcy of a state where racist and violent nostalgia (whitewashed definition: tourism) is the main revenue source in a plantation economic system. Food deserts are plentiful, incarceration disparities are high, and health care is inadequate and scarce. The piercing echoes of slavery reverberate through every facet of every structure as generational inequities amassed because of mass murder, terrorism and theft—of lives, spirits, time and wealth—persist.
Through it all, the Magnolia State holds on to its Confederate battle emblem, a tangible reminder that black people are at war—a war that is sanctioned by the federal government’s complicity. And if this nation is serious about shedding its oppressive skin, the flag will no longer be allowed to fly on any federal buildings, state buildings or public lands in the country.
Make no mistake: Racism is not quarantined in the Deep South; it ravages the entire country. But as long as the flag remains, Mississippi is sending a clear message that its sickness is not under control and that black citizens experiencing the effects of the systemic virus will continue to be misdiagnosed as playing victim.
Still, this state was also home to warrior women like Fannie Lou Hamer and Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Aunjanue Ellis, who is walking in their tradition of radical black love and truth-telling on June 14 in Washington, D.C., as she uses her platform to stand up in the seat of this nation’s power and remind it that we are here and that the contemptible flag does not represent us.
Take it down, America. Shred it, burn it and throw its filthy remains into the depths of the Mighty Mississippi.