At the beginning of April 2020, Mississippians were given a surprise. The first-year governor of the state of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, signed a proclamation that declared April the month of Confederate Heritage.
However, Reeves is not the first governor to sign the proclamation. Former governors of Mississippi such as Phil Bryant signed their versions of the proclamation in past years. One thing the proclamations have in common (besides declaring the month of April for the reminder of confederate history) is that they were all signed discreetly. For instance, Tate Reeves declared his proclamation during the COVID-19 pandemic and along with issuing the statewide shelter-in-place executive order.
As can be expected, when the public heard of this action they took to social media to voice their opinions. The majority disagreed with the proclamation and decided that the Confederate Heritage Month has racial prejudice propositions. I wanted to hear more of Mississippians’ opinions, so I composed a survey on April 9-10, with the hopes of learning. The survey collected in a total of 183 responses from citizens of Mississippi from those who reside in over 40 counties.
A question on the survey asked, “Do you believe that the Confederate flag represents racism and the enslavement of African-Americans? Or do you believe that it serves to honor the Confederate dead?”
The research showed that 80% of Mississippians believed that the Confederate flag represents racism and/or the enslavement of African-Americans. On the other hand, 10% of Mississippians believed that the Confederate flag serves to honor and remember those who lost their lives in the Civil War. One anonymous respondent expressed their opinion further by saying:
“I do believe that the Confederate flag represents slavery and racism because the Confederate States and Union state got into a civil war. The main purpose of the Civil War was fought to keep African-American people as slaves and to keep slavery legal. I do understand that some people’s family members have died in that war and they have a right to honor them but that doesn’t mean that everyone else has to as well. We have to acknowledge that some people’s family members during that time were slaves and that they were just as affected by this as you are. Some people will have to come to the sad reality that their grandfather fought to keep other people’s grandfathers as their slaves. I would also say that it is mostly understood that the Confederation was NOT a good thing. Yes, it is history and is not pretty but it is not good either. We don’t have a KKK appreciation day or a Lynching celebration week, because it is understood that those things were not right and we’re wrong. So, to have a Confederate Heritage month based around how some people’s past relatives fought to keep slavery would be massively inappropriate. It is much more effective to have people honor their past by themselves because once it comes into the limelight, other people’s past has to be included too.”
Another question in the survey asked, “Do you believe that it was necessary to name April the Confederate Heritage Month?”
Research showed that 94.2% of people believe that it was not necessary to name April as the Confederate Heritage Month. An underwhelming 5.8% believes that it was necessary.
The following question asked the respondents, “As a state do you feel like this proclamation prevails or fails Mississippi?”
77% of Mississippians feel like Confederate Heritage Month fails Mississippi and that it will refrain us from becoming a better state. 6.6% of Mississippians feel as if this prevails Mississippi and that it will better us for the future. Furthermore, 16.4% of Mississippians simply have no opinion on the matter. Another respondent voices their opinion further by stating:
“I believe to learn from the past, you must study all aspects of the past without bias. This is hard to do if you are predisposed to think in one way or the other. When you see the past as preordained events, you can view the world as it is. This is my method, and it allows me to view life as created by God who ordains all things and all things work together for His glory. He allows bad things to happen for His glory and praise. To understand this, you must seek God, be convicted of your sin by the Holy Spirit, and seek His forgiveness and a right relationship with Him. Until this happens, we will continue to feud and fight over what we think is right. God’s way is the only right way. Studying God’s word allows us to see each other the way God sees us—as sinners who needed a savior, as humans created the same way. It saddens me to know this society will continue to bicker because we all want to go our way without God, and some those who profess Christ won’t study God’s word to find peace with fellow humans or their Creator.”
The last question on the survey asked the respondents, “If you had the ability to eradicate the Confederate Heritage month, would you?”
89.2% of Mississippians chose yes, they would eradicate the Confederate Heritage Month. Diversely, 10.8 % of Mississippians chose no, they would keep the Confederate Heritage Month.
When I evaluated the responses from the survey I found myself surprised by some of the answers received. An interesting trend in the responses was, 50% of the people who believe that the confederate flag serves to honor the dead are under the age of 18. It’s not only the older generations that believe in these prejudiced traditions, it’s also youth in the state. That is concerning because when the youth believes such things, it’s only going to continue the pattern of hate and racism in Mississippi.
As a generation and a community, we need to do better when it comes to our knowledge of politics. We shouldn’t use the excuse of “I’m young, it doesn’t concern me”, because it does. When it’s our generation’s time to hold those political positions, the actions of those in office now ultimately falls on us. However, I don’t solely blame the Mississippi youth for having these abstracted mindsets. Part of the blame should be placed on our parents and our educators. I know personally, from growing up in the Mississippi Education system, the way slavery and the Civil War is taught in classes does not exceed the levels of mediocre. How could the Mississippi youth know about the detriment conditions of slavery, and the true reasons why the Civil War was fought; when it’s not taught to them properly? When individuals know better, they do better.
Also, I believe when everyone is better educated we, as Mississippians, will unite, and stand against racist, futile proclamations that shouldn’t exist in 2020 (and that only exists to please Caucasian, confederate organizations a.k.a. The Sons of Confederate Soldiers) such as the Confederate Heritage Month.