Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has recently received criticism for his handling of the coronavirus crisis after having initially refused to shut down nonessential businesses in his state, a decision he reversed a day later.
Now, as the world continues to suffer under a global pandemic, Reeves has been working really hard… declaring a “Confederate Heritage Month.”
The HuffPost reports that two days after he finally issued a statewide “shelter-in-place” order which included the shutting down of nonessential businesses, Reeves decided to take the time to officially proclaim April as the month to honor the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
“April is the month when, in 1861, the American Civil War began between the Confederate and Union armies, reportedly the costliest and deadliest war ever fought on American soil and whereas state law declares the last Monday of April as Confederate Memorial Day, a legal holiday to honor those who served in the Confederacy,” the proclamation reads.
According to Jackson Free Press, Reeves has a history with pro-Confederate organizations.
In July 2013, then-Lt. Gov. Reeves spoke at the group’s national reunion in Vicksburg. With a massive Confederate flag behind him and decorative arrangements of cotton on either side, Reeves “congratulated the SCV for keeping history alive for our youth,” an SCV blogger later recalled. Other speakers at the reunion defended the Confederate “cause,” recast notoriously racist slaveholders as heroes, and one even compared “the Yankees” to “the Nazis.”
HuffPost reported last year that Reeves was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. The fraternity has heralded Gen. Robert E. Lee as a spiritual leader and is known for its Confederate displays which have put them at odds with the black students on campus.
In 2016, former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a similar proclamation like Reeves’ which was posted on the website of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group Bryant has been an open member of for some time.
The difference between the two proclamations lies in the language. Bryant’s proclamation begins, “April is the month when the Confederate states began and ended a four-year struggle,” while Reeves’ simply acknowledges when the war began without any specific mention as to who started it.
“As we honor all who lost their lives in this war, it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes…,” Reeves’ proclamation reads.
But if it’s really only meant to commemorate the war itself and not either side of the conflict specifically, then why not call it “Civil War” month? By designating it “Confederate Heritage Month,” Reeves makes it clear which side he wishes to honor.
In 2019, Bryant ultimately decided to declare April “Unity Month” instead of “Confederate Heritage Month” at the request of Unite Mississippi, a nonprofit organization that focuses on racial and social reconciliation among Christians in Mississippi.
Reeves should have taken a page from Bryant’s book on that—or maybe just get back to focusing on seeing Mississippi through this global health crisis. I believe it’s called “priorities.”