A Chance to be 49th

Mississippi doesn’t embrace many chances to avoid winning last place, but here’s an easy one: we’re one of the last two states to recognize “Confederate Memorial Day.” Alabama is the other one. Regardless of what one feels about our state flag–I think it’s hopelessly tone-deaf at best–it ought to be easy to avoid a state holiday that by definition will alienate a substantial portion of its citizens. How wonderful it would be to let Alabama serve the union as the last reminder of a state that legitimized slavery.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, New Orleans is removing four monuments to the confederacy. I have as many misgivings about this as I do about today’s state holiday. I prefer what’s happened to the confederate statue at Ole Miss–an idea that seems more respectful of all parties involved.

UPDATE: A tip of the hat to Terrence Johnson, an MSMS alumnus who shared Jarvis DeBerry’s strong argument against leaving the statues up. (DeBerry is an MSMS alumnus also–he spoke at last year’s graduation.)

This entry was posted in Politics, Pop Culture, Race in Mississippi. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to A Chance to be 49th

  1. Brianna Ladnier says:

    Should we acknowledge that history happened, yes. Should we have a holiday celebrating the fact that we once legitimatized enslaving human beings because we thought the color of their skin lessened their value? Of course not!

    The statues shouldn’t necessarily be taken down, but they should be recognized for what they are, reminders of a darker time in our history. They should be labeled with the brutal honest history behind the statue.

    If anyone disagrees with me, please comment your opinion below. I will be respectful in our debate, as I would be happy to have one. 🙂

    • Shuchi Patel says:

      I agree with what you have said. “Confederate Memorial Day” is crossing the line. People should not be rejoicing over the mistreatment of others. The statues should serve as a reminder of what happens when people of color are considered less than people who are not.

  2. Brianna Ladnier says:

    Should we acknowledge that history happened, yes. Should we have a holiday celebrating the fact that we once legitimatized enslaving human beings because we thought the color of their skin lessened their value? Of course not!

    The statues shouldn’t necessarily be taken down, but they should be recognized for what they are, reminders of a darker time in our history. They should be labeled with the brutal honest history behind the statue.

  3. Stephanie Dauber says:

    There is no way that we can pretend that what happened didn’t. Mississippi was (still is) a very racist state that dehumanized and monetized people for profit. Confederate statues can be educational, but still mindful of recognizing that what the South did was wrong, so removing them may not be necessary. That is in the way of statues, for buildings, like at Ole Miss that were named after vocally racist governors, I believe that is the right thing to do.
    But having something like Confederate Memorial Day, a holiday, equalizes it with Memorial Day, Veterans Day, the Fourth, and it’s not the same. It is a glorification and remembrance of what some families see as the “glory days.” This is just another disappointing example of the inability for Mississippi to move forward in the world we live in.

  4. Stephanie Dauber says:

    There is no way that we can pretend that what happened didn’t. Mississippi was (still is) a very racist state that dehumanized and monetized people for profit. Confederate statues can be educational, but still mindful of recognizing that what the South did was wrong, so removing them may not be necessary. That is in the way of statues, for buildings, like at Ole Miss that were named after vocally racist governors, I believe that is the right thing to do.
    But having something like Confederate Memorial Day, a holiday, equalizes it with Memorial Day, Veterans Day, the Fourth, and it’s not the same. It is a glorification and remembrance of what some families see as the “glory days.” This is just another disappointing example of the inability for Mississippi to move forward in the world we live in.

  5. Kamal Bhalla says:

    Ever since the debate about changing the state’s flag has been brought up, I have been on the side that it should definitely change. It is just sad how we still continue to believe that keeping the flag that has such a negative view is still being used. While others say that it shows Southern pride and other things, why can’t they just sympathize with the people that had to go through so many hardships that came along with that very flag?

    As for the monuments, I believe that there should be clear vindication onto what they mean and what they did to people at the time that it was effecting. While there are some that I truly believe should be taken down, there is a side of me that believes that they should be there to remind us of all the hardships that we have overcome and should continue to overcome in the future of humanity.

  6. Ty Crook says:

    This is a very interesting topic, as I discussed it with friends earlier this week. I am proud to be an Alabamian, as it is the the state where I was born, where the majority of my relatives reside, and where I learned to appreciate an aspect of life that is unique to being “Southern” (Fish and Grits, fishing with friends at a hidden creek). However, there are aspects of my home state that persists in causing me much despair. One such issue is the infatuation with the Confederate States of America. This can be seen with the state’s recognition of a memorial day set aside for those who fought for the Confederacy. It is almost as if states like Alabama and Mississippi enact such days as metaphorical “fingers in the eye” to those who would not celebrate these individuals and their evil cause. (Yes, their causes were evil, just read the ordinance of secession from each state).

    It is in fact more than a “finger in the eye” to myself and my family. The memorial day is a stark reminder of how some still probably view me and those who share my ancestral heritage as less than human and underserving of of such status. The counter argument that such days are a celebration of “Southern Heritage” falls on deaf ears, as most arguments exclude the fact that such heritage is is forever linked to White Supremacy and that many African Americans are proud Southerners who enjoy southern living just as I described previously.

    Having just completed research on my family lineage for an upcoming family reunion this summer, I was able to identify my 2nd great grandfather, who was born around 1851 and who would have been a young boy during the Civil War and a young man throughout Reconstruction. Knowing the innocence of youth and the importance of family in one’s development, I often wonder about his experiences during that time. Was he able to connect with his parents the way that I am able to connect with my one year old twins (his 3rd great grandchildren)? Did he feel safe in a way that children need a sense of safety in their development? I wonder about how he was able to take care of himself and his family during Reconstruction, when many of the Confederate veterans who had lost the war engaged in systematic terrorism to keep those like himself from exercising life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I also wonder how my fellow Alabamians, my fellow Americans, can justify celebrating those who terrorized my 2nd great grandfather his family, directly or indirectly. I wonder how they can justify celebrating those who fought to deny him full personhood, and at the same time ignore and/or marginalize, his ability to persevere in spite of the obstacles placed by in front of him and others who found freedom only in name after the war ended.

    These thoughts actually inform my opinion on topics regarding Confederate monuments. I love history! *Clears throat…* I love “accurate and complete” history! As such we should remember history and study all of it. It is my opinion that such monuments should stay and that the funds being used to remove them should instead be used to label such monuments with “accurate” information about the individuals being immortalized. Those same funds should be used to build new monuments to those like my 2nd great grandfather who were formerly enslaved and who embodied the true American values of hard work, perseverance, resilience, and love of country even when their country did not love them.

    Thank you again, Dr. E for allowing me to participate in this discussion!

  7. Devon Matheny says:

    I think that those who do believe in the Confederate should respect why those who do not want it present anymore. Like Bob Dylan says, the times, they are changing. There are new and better things to do with society than fight over a flag. I think that the monuments should remain where they are, in order to preserve history in a way where people learn about why a certain monument is in place where it is and why it is there.

  8. Jagger Riggle says:

    I was not born in the South, yet I have lived in Pontotoc, Mississippi for 15 of my 17 years of life. I feel as if I am from the South even though none of my family is from here. I also “…love ‘accurate and complete’ history!”, as Dr. Crook said, and I find it intriguing to see how far we as humans have come in a relatively short amount of time. I think we should get rid of the “Confederate Memorial Day”, because that makes it sound like we are idolizing the atrocities that were committed in the South. Yet, at the same time, I disagree with taking down historical monuments. We should do something like Ole Miss and put plaques that reinforce that this is not what we believe today, but not get rid of the statues and monuments entirely. This would then allow the monument to show just how far we have come as humans.

    For Spring Break, I went to Germany with the school. One of the first places we went to was to a concentration camp. This horrible creation was transformed into a museum and an intensely powerful memorial in honor of those who were murdered in it. “I can see why it was turned into a memorial, but why was this monstrous ‘thing’ not destroyed completely and a monument put in its place, or maybe somewhere else?” Well, not only does it serve as a memorial, it serves a reminder to what happened, and that we as humans must not let anything like it happen again. You can look at pictures of a memorial website, or experience the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. (which I have also been to), but being inside the camp gives a completely different feeling. The same should be said with the Confederate Monuments here in the American South. Seeing what the people who supported these horrible things looked like (even if it just a statue), and standing where they stood, gives a feeling that cannot be experienced from just looking at a plaque or a page in a text book. We should allow these statues and monuments to stand, but let them represent something along the lines of “Never forget. Never again.”

  9. Kendall Wells says:

    When asked in class if we knew what day it was, I had no idea that it was Confederate Memorial Day. I did not know Mississippi still celebrated such a holiday, however I was not very surprised. While I do think it is important to acknowledge and educate people on Mississippi’s history, I do not agree that we “celebrate” it. Mississippi should take this opportunity to not be remembered as the last state to celebrate this holiday, but will we?
    Most likely not. As with the statues, removing them is not necessary as they are reminders of the South’s cruel history.

  10. AK Mynatt says:

    No matter what we do, there will always be someone who is upset with the decision made. With this in mind, it does make sense to leave the statues up. They can constantly be a reminder of our past, and how we don’t ever need to recreate this past.

  11. Harlynn Robinson says:

    Mississippi’s leaps haven’t been outstanding in regards to racism since the civil war, but there has been an improvement. Any progress seems to be erased by having a holiday in which we commemorate the fallen parties of a cause as atrocious as slavery. I understand losing people in war is a terribly sad thing and we, as humans, like to honor our dead. But we are far enough removed from that generation that no one alive has a close enough tie to any of the men lost to warrant a holiday in which the men of that cause should be honored. It is quite sick that we still have such a holiday because at this point in time it doesn’t commemorate the men, it commemorates the idea of the men – the sick and unjust idea of racism and slavery. While the statues as well do much the same thing in honoring the men of a unrighteous cause, they are far enough removed so as to be made into teaching devices. History supposedly repeats itself, and as much as we cry out ‘Never again!’, if we forget what it is we are supposed to be preventing what is to say it won’t happen again. The statues could stand as a painful and necessary reminder of why we must never again return to the way things were.

  12. Steven says:

    Respect for all parties matters less to me than respect for the intellect of humanity. By removing these monuments, it seems that an important portion of history is being censored. This would only increase the ignorance in the South because people will not truly understand the severity of the South’s dark history. The monuments are not a matter of whose feelings are hurt or free speech, they are an important reminder of a horrendous social standard that did not precede us too long ago. The decision by Ole Miss is an honorable move in my opinion.

  13. Reyhan Grims says:

    While it still needs to come to the present, Mississippi would be doing an injustice to history if it were to tear down its Confederate statues. Of course, I do not agree with the Confederacy in any way, but people still need to reflect upon history so we can perhaps avoid some of our gravest mistakes. The unsuccessful rebellion known as the Confederacy should show us that this nation is much better off united rather than divided. Leaving these statues in their present condition could serve as lessons for the future generations by teaching them to remember their heritage while still learning from their mistakes. Now, the holiday itself is just unnecessary. There is no point in trying to memorialize a movement that is seen symbolic with treason, slavery, and violence. Yes, we should remember history, but we should not nearly glorify or even respect our past wrongdoings but criticize and learn from them.

  14. Campbell Rolph says:

    Recognizing heritage is fine. If you’ve been to the state capital, there are four confederate statues, one on each side, of the building, all depicting a different group affected by the war, the mothers, sisters, brothers, and sons of the deceased. It was a brutal time, one that shaped our history, and recognizing that impact is critically important.
    A state holiday is too far. We should not be celebrating our heritage, but remembering it shamefully as Germany does with it’s 1940’s history. Holding a state holiday sends the wrong message in a big way, signalling to those in Mississippi who aren’t ashamed of our actions leading up to the war to think that there is nothing wrong with that mindset. We need to drop the holiday, but I wouldn’t complain if there was more of a focus on it in the classroom.

  15. Dustin Dunaway says:

    Evidence of Mississippi’s history is scattered throughout the state, normalized and protected by the citizens with the same mindset their forefathers had. The battle flag of the Confederacy remains in Mississippi—on bumper stickers, tramp stamps, and the state flag. Defended by the claim of “preserving our heritage,” the flag flies as a scar from the Civil War. The largest metropolitan area in the state—Jackson, Mississippi—receives its water supply from Ross Barnett Reservoir, a body of water named after a fierce segregationist. It was Governor Ross Barnett who denied James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi, and while Meredith overcame the barrier, Barnett is the one memorialized. Dark reminders of our past deserve to be recognized, much like the statues in NOLA, there should be an acknowledgment of what was once normalized. In the words of William Faulkner, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.”

  16. Vera L. Taire says:

    Hi, yes, did anyone actual realize it was a state holiday? How important is it to us as a state if we didn’t even know it was happening? Furthermore, if we didn’t know, why does it matter if the day if still recognized? This is another case of being overly sensitive. Just change the freakin name of the day. That’s what Georgia did.

    Hello, modern Americans, have you experienced forced segregation? Have you experienced actual oppression? No? Then stop complaining, and stop rewriting.

    All you’re doing is drawing attention to a dead cause. You are handing the white supremacists more publicity, more importance, more relevance, in your efforts to remove their power. Congratulations. You’d come a lot closer to your goals if you merely let them fade into obsoletism.

  17. Samuel Patterson III says:

    I see this as just another step backward for Mississippi and Alabama. However, I am very inspired by the action in New Orleans. The civil war is over and the confederate cause should’ve been killed along with their defeat at Palmito Ranch. Simply put, there shouldn’t be any glorification of confederate figures. To put it nicely, they are a disgraceful stain on the fabric of freedom. After all, confederates were willing to kill to keep African-Americans in chains. If we could only ask a slave, that was whipped within an inch of his life, taken away from his wife and kids or his newborn baby, and/or verbally degraded as “inferior” every day, about how he truly felt on this issue. That alone should answer your question. Take those cowards down!!

  18. Yousef Abu-Salah says:

    Mississippi has been a state in decline for decades, with its past continually being seen as “the golden years” in terms of economic importance and national influence. The Mississippi of today is a shell of its former self, continually focusing on a heritage that is both a symbol of slavery and extreme injustice. Yet, I truly believe that the Confederate statues should not be taken down for the sake of having an eternal reminder of our mistakes. These Confederate statues, if taken down, would only serve as fuel for those who oppose to simply increase their ignorance. The holiday on the other hand is absolutely atrocious. Holidays are usually meant to celebrate important events that the citizens are both proud of and eternally thankful for; however, this holiday fails to qualify for any of these. This holiday attempts to memorialize a movement that lacks any good things but rather items such as slavery and violence. A time of intense violence and extreme prejudice. Even in modern times, the confederacy’s impacts can still be felt, but they are definitely not good. The whole concept of Confederate Memorial Day seems to invigorate the atmosphere that our state has: a racist, unwelcoming place. I sincerely hope that this holiday will soon be abolished, because it is not only a terrible and unnecessary thing but also just time Mississippi. It’s time to stop all of this. We must move forward to grow as a state, yet it seems that Mississippi is content just where it is: the joke of our nation.

  19. Mary Owings says:

    A state holiday, along with the use of confederate flags in general is completely inappropriate as a reinforcement of the mistakes of the past. It represents racism and hate, definitely not a time of an improvement or a good future for the state of Mississippi. I do respect the efforts of Ole Miss in recognizing the history of the Confederacy… and remembering that it is HISTORY, not our present or future. For this same reason, it is not appropriate to remove historical monuments. It is important to remember the Confederacy and the hateful actions in order to continuously diverge from this and make progress.

  20. Liam McDougal says:

    The topic of the Confederacy and the Civil War is a touchy one in the deep south, especially Mississippi. Looking at it from a historical standpoint, it is also touchy. I believe that we should be able to respect the ancestors and heritage of those with Confederate lineage. Villainizing an entire generation of Americans, especially considering the vast majority of them did NOT own slaves, is wrong. Many Confederate soldiers fought because they had no choice but to fight. When war comes to you, you fight or die. This being said, I am not advocating for racism or any remaining symbols of racism. Racist ideology and the monuments praising it should be removed, as they are an everlasting tumor on America. However, I believe that we should not destroy everything that has Confederate heritage. History is very important and destroying it is counterproductive- it’s the same thing that’s being done by ISIS in the Middle East. They destroy anything they disagree with. This is not to compare out government to ISIS, but just to shine light on my perspective. I agree that these monuments should have plaques or other indicators added to explain the context behind the statue, much like the one in Ole Miss. However, if these statues are to be removed, I think they should be preserved in a museum to save the history, because the Civil War is a very important part of American history, and, like it or not, the Confederacy and its death played into the newly reformed South a lot. Everyone knows that the Civil War happened and that the Confederacy lost, and that some people in the CSA owned slaves. Attempting to hide it or destroy it is futile and counterproductive.

  21. Sarah Swiderski says:

    It’s no secret that Mississippi is far behind its time.
    That said, I don’t see this happening. I still know people in Nowhere, Mississippi who observe Confederate Memorial Day.
    This holiday is, unfortunately, seen as part of people’s heritage, especially in areas where poverty and sub-par education preside in the state.
    The first step in catching up to the 21st century is a step towards a more rounded education, which has its own complications.
    We’ll see what the next ten years bring.

  22. Amber Jackson says:

    Everyone is kind of saying the same thing about how we should keep the statues because they remind us of our past and how we shouldn’t censor it. I totally agree with these statements for reasons mentioned above. I can’t really get mad at Mississippi for doing these things because it’s expected for a state who hasn’t really been informed on how to properly handle or express things. This is a result of a bigger issue/problem that needs to be solved in Mississippi. It’s not just this one thing, it’s a cascade of a bunch of things that are again the result of bigger societal issue/way of thought that needs to be addressed. People are outraged at all these things Mississippi seems to be doing but its kind of expected when people refuse to move on and learn from their old ways.

  23. Landry Filce says:

    While it may seem easy for us to avoid being the last state to celebrate this outdated holiday, it must be taken into consideration that Mississippi’s citizens are often still scarily supportive of the Confederacy (and sometimes the things that it stood for). It would be nice not to be the last for once, but I don’t think it is realistic. Still, we can hope. Additionally, given Ole Miss’s very recent history of discrimination- think James Meredith- along with our state’s still-popular Confederate mentality, it would not be a wise idea to leave the statue standing. Perhaps if we were more socially aware it could stand as a sort of reminder to avoid history repeating itself, but it is far more likely, even with the “explanatory plaque”, for the statues to be held up as respecting Confederate ideologies. “Never again” cannot be conveyed properly if the behavior that we seek to avoid in the future is still occurring on a widespread basis today.

  24. Mariana Strawn says:

    The topic of the Confederacy in America is one that rarely fails to create an emotional response in an individual. The fact that Mississippi did not immediately recognize Confederate Memorial Day is something that can be taken in multiple ways. Should we honor the Confederate soldiers who died for their country? As they did believe that they were fighting for their homeland, as does any American soldier. Although we may frown upon their cause, is it not worth remembering their deaths? On the other account, what they fought for meant the enslavement of another section of Americans. That in itself is not tolerable. What has happened to the statues of the Confederate soldiers falls into the exact same place. They were Americans, just like we all are. They fought and died for what they believed their homeland was. Often times it is difficult to make a clear decision on what is right and wrong, in particular when it comes to topics such as these. Perhaps there is no right answer in this situation. All that can truly be said is that both sides of this argument feel pain for what happened, and that regardless of the outcome, the Civil War is something that we should learn from and that should never be forgotten.

  25. Patel says:

    The past is the past, and by removing the items from the past will not remove the past from the existence. I respect the idea of New Orleans wanting to remove the four monuments, but I strongly disagree with them. By taking down the four monuments, New Orleans is only publicizing the city. Those four monuments are extremely important not only for the city’s history but also for the nation’s history. For example, what would happen to Columbus and Tales from the Crypt if people wanted to relocate the confederate graves?

  26. Darby Meadows says:

    I don’t think “Confederate Memorial Day” should be a holiday or celebrated. I think It celebrates racism and the hurtful ideas of the past. The monuments on the other hand don’t have to celebrate or support those topics, but can serve as a constant reminder. If the monuments were like the one in Oxford, displaying the history behind statue, they would show people what the south has been through and overcome!

    • Thu-Hash-Slangin-Poodler says:

      The American Civil War was a very complex affair and one upon which to expound in neutral light is almost a brand of “contemporary heresy,”. Regardless I will attempt to explain my thoughts on the war itself, as it relates to the southern people and how it is lil’ ol’ perceived in the lil’ ole’ South. First thing first, why did the war start? This, is not a question that can be summed up in a simple “states rights” or “racism”, as it is a very ambiguous question to begin with, and could even be conflated with many different questions. Why did the South Seceded? For the most part the answer is to protect the institution of slavery in the South. Why was the war fought? Well this was not necessarily the immediate consequence of succession or slavery for that matter, as a matter of fact, the Civil War did not start immediately after the succession because the North could not be galvanized into invading the Confederacy, as such an action seemed tantamount to betraying the constitution and its principles insofar as contemporary Americans, before 1859 and White vs. Texas, overwhelmingly believed the United States to be a loose confederation of sovereign entities who where at liberty to leave the Union if they so desired. Instead the War started, at least from the perspective of contemporary history books, because the South bombarded Fort Sumter on May, 9, 1861. To understand the Southern mindset it must first be understood why the Southern people believed the war started, an different point of view still propagated across the “Black Belt” as some refer to it, even today. Abraham Lincoln, in an attempt to hold the Union together sighted a clause from the Articles of Confederation, the clause of insolubility” in a somewhat spurious attempt to play down the southern attempt at succession as a simple rebellion (I might add Lincoln contradicted the claim simply by sending in the federal army to suppress the rebellion, as the constitution does not provide for any federal army on domestic soil, hence the Confederacy had to be recognized as a sovereign entity at least in some regard). In Charlestown SC, there was a small Union garrison in Fort Moultrie lead by Major Robert Anderson, which in a clandestine move, relocated to Fort Sumter in the middle of an already tense situation. The provisional government in Richmond decided that this was a Union attempt to beleaguer the southern strong hold of Charlestown and thus opened fire. This is why I believe the Southern people, even if they don’t realize this themselves, argue so vehemently that it was a matter of states rights which started the war. Irrespective of any of this, one should realize that the Confederate forces fought until the ends end in a very literal sense. In the last days of the war, supply trains had to 5mi down the rails because they had been worn to nubs, the men where eating the horses rations for lack of food and the horses tree bark or leaves. At Appomattox, the final vestiges of Lee’s army where mere children and old men, come to support their cause. It is from this alternative point of view I am able to appreciate the Confederacy, at least in a military (last stand) regard, and this is also why I cannot bring myself to denigrate the South by calling for the statues to be removed or to hide the history from the public because it offends, and the holiday to the confederacy, perhaps there should exist some notation on the calendar, like national ice-cream day, or something, because I do not believe it right to obfuscate or otherwise hide what sacrifices that our fellow Americans south of the Mason-Dixie line made in that war.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *