Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Dispatch on efforts to preserve the history of Black Mississippians:
If you were to somehow be able to spread Mississippi’s history out on a table, the first thing you would notice is a gaping hole in it. It would not be inaccurate to describe it as a black hole.
The full story of Mississippi’s history is untold, and will likely remain untold because comparatively little remains of the historical record of black Mississippians well into the 20th Century.
That’s no small void. After all, blacks were the majority of Mississippi’s population between 1840 and 1940, according to the U.S. Census figures.
Because so little of that story was ever documented, the gaps in our state’s history will remain. It is so important to capture as much of it as remains.
That is why we are encouraged to see efforts currently underway to preserve Brush Arbor cemetery in Starkville, one of the oldest black cemeteries in the state. Mississippi State anthropology professors are working with the activist group Starkville Stand Up in the effort to restore, to as great an extent as possible, the old cemetery. If it were simply an effort to give this space the respect and dignity it deserves, that alone would be an honorable effort. But in preserving the cemetery, it will allow historians to piece together parts of black history that have long gone unexamined.
All cemeteries hold a part of our history. For three decades now, history students at MSMS have been telling the stories of the people buried at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus through its popular “Tales from The Crypt” event under the guidance of MSMS history teacher Chuck Yarbrough.
In many cases, those stories are a “retelling” of history, which is why Yarbrough’s efforts to apply the same research principles to the city’s historic Black cemetery, Sandfield Cemetery, may be even more important than the good work his students are doing at Friendship Cemetery. At Sandfield, students participating in the annual Eight 0′ May event are often telling stories that might easily have otherwise escaped into historical oblivion.
Because of the paucity of archival records of our black histories, cemeteries are especially crucial to capturing the history of our black citizens.
When we see what is unfolding around us today in the debate over the state’s Jim Crow flag and the continuing presence of Confederate monuments throughout the state, we can’t help but feel that a better understanding of our history — all of it — would calm the rhetoric and allow a smoother transition toward racial understanding, harmony and mutual respect.
Each February, we celebrate Black History Month. It is fitting that we do so.
But it is also important to remember that Black history is not ancillary: It is our history and any telling of our history is incomplete without embracing, uncovering and understanding black history.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on support for removing Confederate imagery from Mississippi's flag:
The push to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the Mississippi flag gained some surprising support this week. But it’s still difficult, unfortunately, to envision a majority of either the Legislature or the voters yet approving the change.
On June 23, the state’s 15 community college presidents, a group that presumably has a good read on the pulse of the state, put out a press release saying they had voted unanimously in favor of changing the state flag.
“We believe the flag of Mississippi should be one that unites all of us towards a prosperous future,” the press release said. “We believe now is the time for change to occur.”
That was surprising enough, but a bigger one came when the leaders of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, a conservative, largely white group representing 500,000 people and more than 2,000 churches, also got on board.
“While some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of our state sees it as a relic of racism and a symbol of hatred,” a convention statement said. “The racial overtones of this flag’s appearance make this discussion a moral issue.”
In two decades of debate over the Mississippi flag, the Baptist Convention’s statement is as eloquent as any in calling for a change. It acknowledged the heritage of the Confederate battle flag but said the flag is too negative of a symbol.
The statement also framed the debate as a moral issue, which is an assessment that a religious organization is uniquely qualified to make. Other denominations in Mississippi have done so previously. To an extent, the Baptist Convention is providing cover for reluctant white members of the Legislature who might support a change.
With respect to the heritage argument, the Mississippi flag is no longer a unifying symbol. The Confederate battle flag once may have stood for something noble, but it got corrupted in the 20th century by segregationists determined to preserve power at any cost. They willfully chose to ignore federal laws and deprive Black Mississippians, often violently, of their civil rights — a decision for which the state continues to pay.
Having said that, it is obvious that Mississippi is being pushed, elbowed and forced into seriously considering a new flag. And when someone is boxed in, that’s when they tend to lash out, fight back and resist. That’s why, even with the support of the Baptist Convention and the community college presidents, it’s hard to see the flag changing just yet.
White legislators apparently fear that voting for a new flag would put their jobs in jeopardy in three years. Otherwise they would have made the move long ago instead of relying on the results of the 2001 referendum. Assuming lawmakers still do not wish to vote on it, it’s also hard to believe that a flag referendum could be added to the upcoming November ballot.
The state flag is going to change. If not this year, it will come. This week’s announcements indicate that more leaders in Mississippi are coming around to the idea of a new flag and summoning the courage to speak out.
Our state often tends to move slowly, so this is progress.
The Vicksburg Post on the need for renewed energy in fighting the coronavirus pandemic:
“The virus doesn’t care.”
In just four words, Gov. Tate Reeves perfectly summed up the past 105 days, otherwise known as the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississippi.
In a social media post last week, Reeves again urged residents in Mississippi to continue to take the virus outbreak seriously at a time when there is a growing lack of want to do so.
“I’m concerned that people are losing interest in the effort to keep each other safe,” Reeves wrote. “We are all red and ready to be done, but the virus doesn’t care. Please be on your guard.”
In the past 105 days, we have seen our passionate concern for the virus wain into a laissez-faire approach to our daily lives.
When the pandemic started, we all rushed to make sure we were well stocked with hand sanitizer and bleach and worked to keep our distance from others to help flatten the curve; “we are in this together,” we used to say. Today, that has been replaced with a society that is divided among those who wear masks when in public places and those who do not care to do so.
“The virus doesn’t care.”
In just 87 days, Warren County has moved from zero cases to now more than 300 and growing. In the past seven days alone, we have seen an increase of 11 cases per day, the highest rate of growth since the start of the pandemic. And sadly, 14 people have lost their lives to this virus.
In that me too, we have seen our local economy shuttered, jobs lost and in some cases livelihoods destroyed. Thankfully, the economy has been restarted, but that too has come with risks — risks that we must do a better job in managing.
And what has become so disappointing is that the things that we should all agree on have now become points of contention and division.
We know that wearing a mask when in public — around other people — is not just better for the individual but for those they are around. It is the neighborly — heck, Southern — thing to do.
We know that doing our best to keep our distance from one another at this me keeps the virus from spreading so quickly and thus saving lives. As Southerners who love to shake hands, hug, pat each other on the back, laugh and tell tall stories, this one is understandably tough, but needed.
And we know that more testing is needed so we can beer understand the scale of the virus within our communities and beer track and trace the path the virus has taken. It is important.
The virus does not care what your opinion is. It is singleminded and driven. We must match that drive in our efforts to stop it.
If we do not take the steps needed to curb the spread of this virus — the little things, such as wearing a mask in public — then the hit to our economy would have been squandered. If we do not do the little things now, then the final years of high school and the final athletic seasons for so many teenagers would have been canceled for nothing.
As Gov. Reeves said, “the virus doesn’t care,” and it is growing increasingly clear that neither do we.