For nearly 20 years, the debate over our state flag has been dominated by two main arguments. From the supporters of the now former state flag, it was about preserving southern pride and a sense of identity. From those who supported ditching the flag, it was about tearing down a racist symbol of the past. However, I never accepted either of these arguments and look at this issue from a unique yet important angle.
Like most Mississippians, I am a conservative Republican who has backed President Trump since day one. If that is all you knew about me, you would more than likely assume I vigorously support defending the 1894 flag at all cost. However, this would be a very false assumption. I have supported changing our state flag for many years now.
I have always seen a flag as a region’s image. A state flag can be an incredible marketing tool for a state. Colorado has the iconic “C”; California has the bear; and South Carolina has the palm tree. For the previous 126 years, Mississippi has had the just as iconic Confederate battle emblem in our state flag.
Being practical, this was not the image our great state should have been portraying to the world. If you chose to wear a hat, t-shirt, or a sweatshirt with the former flag on it, very few people would have seen you as a patriotic Mississippian. Most would have seen you as a nuisance making a provocative political statement. The role of a flag is to unite people regardless of their differences. Our old flag did not achieve this objective. I want a state flag that every Mississippian can fly, and they would think nothing more of me than the fact that I am a proud Mississippian.
The Mississippi Legislature made a bold and brave move this past summer to retire the 1894 flag and start the process of selecting a new one. Both Republicans and Democrats came together despite our toxic political climate to do what was right for Mississippi, not what was going to help them win re-election. We have made too much progress in the face of adversity to move backwards.
The “In God We Trust Flag” is a banner that all Mississippians can wave regardless of our differences. This flag does not label you as a Republican or a Democrat, or a conservative or a liberal: It only labels you as a proud Mississippian.
I encourage you – for the sake of moving our great state forward – to vote “YES” on Ballot Measure 3 and approve the “In God We Trust Flag” on Nov. 3.
Connor Gibson is an Oak Grove High School student and a member of the Class of 2023.