Mississippi State University and the University for Women have joined five other public universities in ceasing to fly Mississippi’s state flag that shows the Confederate battle emblem in the upper left-hand corner.
The decision comes at a time when many of Mississippi’s public universities have taken affirmative steps to distance themselves from Confederate symbols. Just last fall, two universities, Ole Miss and the University of Southern Mississippi, removed the state flag from their campuses. While those efforts should not be overlooked and certainly commended, there is definitely more work that needs to be done.
Unfortunately, the movement to abolish Mississippi’s confederate flag has not had an impact on state policies. The 2016 legislation session saw several bills intended to change the state flag die in House Committee. Currently, Mississippi law gives the state flag all the respect and ceremonious etiquette attributed the American flag.
Federal District Judge Reeves held that Mississippi’s flag is not unconstitutional and the individual bringing the suit did not have standing or a legal right to be in the court. The court found that the plaintiff did not have a “cognizable legal injury.” However, several argue that for many African Americans, the Confederate battle emblem is a symbol of slavery, lynchings, pain, and white supremacy. Justice Fred Banks noted that “the battle emblem takes no back seat to the Nazi Swastika’ in the ability to provoke a visceral reaction.”
I believe that often the judicial system is not always the correct avenue to effectuate the change that we want. As with the universities, it was the students who rallied together to demand change. I believe as a law student I am in a powerful position; a position that allows me to know the law and be a catalyst for change.