Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

___

Jan. 19

The Dispatch on Confederate Heritage Month and Confederate holidays that are observed in Mississippi:

Mississippi, along with six other states, will recognize April as Confederate Heritage Month. On April 26, Mississippi will join four other states in observation of a state holiday known as Confederate Memorial Day.

We also note that Mississippi observes Robert E. Lee Day as a state holiday on the same day as Martin Luther King Day, as odd and inappropriate coupling as you are ever likely to encounter.

Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day were established by the Legislature, while Confederate Heritage Month is made each year by a proclamation of the Governor.

We are hard-pressed to understand the value of any of them, but we do not doubt the damage each does to the reputation of our state.

Lee’s connection to the state is tenuous if not outright non-existent. We cannot think of any contribution he made to the people of Mississippi that should warrant a state holiday in his name.

Likewise, Confederate Heritage Day is a relic of a regrettable era, celebrating Mississippi at its absolute worst. Gov. Tate Reeves, like his predecessors, says in the annual proclamation that Confederate Heritage Month is time to reflect on our Confederate Heritage. We wonder, though, what Confederate heritage almost four-in-10 Mississippians, the black population, have to reflect on.

It’s embarrassing. Gov. Reeves knows that. It’s no accident that of all the state proclamations he has issued, Confederate Heritage Month is the only one that isn’t posted on the Governor’s official website and is not announced by a press release. He does it in secret because he’s ashamed to do it in public.

As for the Robert E. Lee and Confederate Memorial Day observations, the Legislature could end both at any time.

But it hasn’t. The reason given most often is that legislators fear the wrath of the voters. Voters may not be as backward in their thinking as legislators assume them to be. In November, Mississippians approved a new state flag by a 3-to-1 margin, replacing the Jim Crow-era flag and its prominent Confederate imagery. It was a clear message that most Mississippians want to look forward, not back.

And what of Confederate Memorial Day? We already have a memorial day set aside for fallen soldiers and see no reason why our Confederate dead are entitled to special distinction above every other conflict in which our sons and daughters have participated.

It’s time to leave behind this glorification of the Confederacy, once and for all. The Legislature and the Governor could achieve this before spring.

Online: https://cdispatch.com/

___

Jan. 15

The Greenwood Commonwealth on Mississippi's new state flag:

The year 2020 was one in which Americans dealt with big problems. The most obvious was the coronavirus pandemic, which surged into 2021 despite the arrival of a vaccine.

But if 2020 was full of problems, it also was a year that encouraged some solutions. One was the approval of a new Mississippi flag, which made its formal debut above the state Capitol earlier this week.

The debate over the former flag had been going on for years. The flag’s homage to the Confederacy — and its association with segregationists and white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan — begged the question of whether it was wise to have a banner that divided people instead of uniting them.

In 2001, Mississippians voted 2-to-1 to keep the old flag. Nothing appeared to be significantly different about public opinion until last spring, when the deaths of Black people at the hands of white police officers sparked nationwide protests.

Suddenly, the Legislature voted to retire the state flag and set up a mechanism to choose a new one. More surprisingly, Gov. Tate Reeves, who had said for years that he opposed changing flags unless voters agreed, signed the bill. And most shocking of all, 71% of voters in the November election approved the proposed new flag.

Reeves said all the right things a few days ago when he signed another bill formalizing the approval of the flag that voters had approved.

He admitted that the old banner, with its Confederate battle flag, had been “a prominent roadblock to unity.” And he added, “When many looked at our former flag, they just saw a symbol of the state and heritage they love. But many felt dismissed, diminished and even hated because of that flag. That is not a firm foundation for our state. So today, we turn the page.”

The objections of Mississippians who resent the shift away from their heritage is understandable. But if 2020 taught us anything at all, it’s that this state and the country have more important things to focus on than a flag.

We are still at the mercy of a virus that has killed far too many people. There is no return to normalcy until this affliction is tamed.

We remain divided and unwilling to listen to other opinions. We swallow wild conspiracy theories about the other side that any dispassionate observer would think are the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic.

In Mississippi specifically, the economy is falling further behind the rest of the nation. Our population is not growing. As much as those of us who live in Mississippi like it, the rest of the country fails to see the state’s potential. This goes double for the small towns that dot the state. As Americans flock to larger cities, small communities rightly worry about what their future holds.

Monday’s flag-raising ceremony, though, was the culmination of a positive movement that can only improve this state’s image outside its borders while fostering greater unity within them.

It was, as the governor said, a small step but an important one.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

___

Jan. 15

The Vicksburg Post on a Mississippi county that did not host a COVID-19 vaccination site:

The first round of vaccines for Mississippians 75 and older rolled out last week, and the Mississippi State Health Department set up 18 mobile sites where vaccines would be administered.

Unfortunately, Warren County was not chosen to host one of them.

This week, the age of those available to get the vaccine was lowered to 65 and those with pre-existing health conditions were also allowed. More appointments were opened up.

But, again, Warren County was not chosen to host one of the vaccination sites.

And then, just as officials were days away from announcing a site had been given to Warren County, the allotment of vaccinations in the state was gone. Every dose was allocated.

While this was disappointing, what was worse was the finger-pointing by some claiming that not enough was being done for Warren County to host a site.

Those offering criticism and pointing fingers showed they simply did not understand the process or were trying to score cheap political points. Either way, doing so was both a shame and embarrassing.

Not only were our leaders at every level working every angle to persuade the Mississippi State Department of Health to expand the number of sites, but so too were many of our doctors.

In fact, during Gov. Tate Reeves’ press conference Tuesday, The Vicksburg Post posed questions to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs as to why Warren County wasn’t on the list as a mobile site.

Before Dobbs answered the questions, he acknowledged he had been receiving a lot of calls from Warren County officials — which is evident in our eyes; the leaders in the community were doing and continue to do all they can to have a mobile vaccination site established in Warren County. They were not sitting and waiting. They were being proactive and showing true leadership, despite what some of our want-to-be power mongers think.

We are not sure why some would find this opportunity to stab others in the back, take to social media and make grandiose statements, but it is beneath them and the positions they hold.

Just because efforts to land a vaccination site were not done in public, with loud megaphones and made a production does not mean that work — real work — was not being done behind the scenes with the right people leading the way.

Even though our site might be delayed, Warren County will have a vaccination site when more vaccine is made available. Until that time, we ask that everyone do what they can to remain safe.

Online: https://www.vicksburgpost.com/