The Lost Cause: Still Winning in Mississippi

Gavin Stevens, Yoknapatawpha’s learned attorney and most articulate southern apologist, quipped in Requiem for a Nun that “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” For Stevens, this means that the glory and the terror of antebellum Mississippi lived on in the hearts and minds of people who never fought in the Civil War. Those days became mythologized as being as pure as moonlight and magnolias. Every true Mississippi boy, Stevens believed, imagined he would join Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg to raise the high water mark of the Confederacy: love Mississippi and the South, death be damned.

Faulkner’s best work shows the absolute depravity involved in mythologizing antebellum Mississippi. In 2021, it seems surreal that Faulkner’s characters embrace an institution as vile as slavery, or as wicked as the government that enabled it.

That’s the thing about Faulkner: he was a realist, not a surrealist. Witness Gov. Tate Reeves’ April 7 executive proclamation that this month is “Confederate Heritage Month.” The proclamation aims to “honor those who served in the Confederacy” and “gain insight from our [nation’s] mistakes and successes.” The proclamation was given to the Rankin County Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter and shared on its social media.

Gov. Reeves made no hubbub about signing the proclamation. If his goal actually celebrated the idea of learning from history, he should have put his signature on this proclamation during a press conference. He should have explained the need to lionize those who fought for the south–and, by extension, for slavery. (Let there be no doubt: Mississippi seceded to protect the right of one person to own another.)

Why do you think Gov. Reeves proclaimed April “Confederate History Month”? Why do you think he issued the proclamation the way he did?

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16 Responses to The Lost Cause: Still Winning in Mississippi

  1. Rice Guigley says:

    There is a difference between honoring something and learning from something. The proclamation of “Confederate History Month” does not sit well. In the second article, Governor Reeves tries to argue that he isn’t doing this to be offence, but he wants to say that he wants us to do this to learn from it. The month is being used to learn about Confederate History. If Governor Reeves really wants us to learn and do better from our past, the state shouldn’t try to sugar-coat it or trying to show how to Confederates suffered. It should be treated like Civil War month to go over how the state was during the Civil War and what happened on both sides. I understand some of the motion behind what he is trying to reason. People do need to learn about what happened during the Civil War in Mississippi; however, the “Confederate History Month” is only focusing on one-side of that story. Mississippi’s history can’t be erased but just because our state’s ancestors did something doesn’t mean we should honor them. Governor Reeves claims to what to represent “all sides”, but it’s still focused on the Confederate side. With everything going on in the world, it just feels like an excuse to push from White Supremacy and oppression. Germany does not have a Nazi History Month. They learn about the entirety of the story, and they have Holocaust Memorials. The reason is it is bad to honor the Confederate side of the story is because the Confederacy fought to deny people human rights. It’s like praising bad behavior. There is a difference between learning about the Confederacy and honoring it. It should not be romanticized like it is. War should not be romanticized. It should be taught. We do not praise our past mistakes, but we learn from them and try to do better. Instead of learning from it, Governor Reeves is trying to honor which it only going to add to the fire.

  2. Zuyi Li says:

    With all kind of different movements that are happening around the country, I think Governor Reeves’s actions imply that Mississippi will not change no matter what happens. The Civil War was fought because of slavery–even though many Mississippi classrooms have taught otherwise. Governor Reeves proclaimed April “Confederate History Month” as if it is something that we should celebrate. Marking of such a month can be interpreted as supporting slavery since the Confederacy and its supporters are strongly associated with racism whether it be as obvious as Jim Crow laws or as subtle as microaggressions towards people of non-European descent. There are many sides of Mississippi that should be celebrated or improved, why must we celebrate the Confederacy. Do we only have to learn from one side of the story? To me, that is very biased. There is more history to Mississippi other than the Civil War era. There is a Mississippi before the war and there is still a Mississipi after the war. The Confederacy should not be the identity of Mississippi.

  3. Chloe Sharp says:

    Let me first point out the blatant hypocrisy in Tate Reeves’s policy: In November of last year when he was proposing the budget, Reeves set aside $3 million for a “patriotic education fund” which he proposed because “across the country, young children have suffered from indoctrination in far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country.” This budget was meant to instill patriotism and nationalism in American youth by emphasizing only “what makes America the greatest place on Earth. What makes America, these United States of America, the greatest country in the history of mankind.” If Tate Reeves wants to emphasize only the good side of American history, why did he just create an entire month to honor the people who literally seceded from this country, went to war against this country, and lost. That doesn’t sound like instilling American patriotism to me, though maybe Confederate history month was never about educating people. Though get me wrong, I have a HUGE problem with the patriotic education thing too. Secondly, I need to state what a GIANT step backward this is for our state. We literally just changed our flag so that it didn’t have the confederate flag on it and now Tate Reeves is giving an entire month to honor people who went to war with their own country because they were told that enslaving people isn’t ok anymore. And for what? So that we remember our history? I think that Mississippi residents remember the Civil War just fine, they don’t need white supremacy month… ahem… sorry confederate history month to help them with that.

  4. Micah Dees says:

    Reeves is finished and he knows it. Both sides of the fence want him to hang by it. This is not entirely his fault however: You cannot mix red and blue and end with a shade that even slightly resembles either of them; You cannot make chicken salad out of chicken sh-t. Proclaiming April as Confederate Heritage Month seems to be a pathetic and ineffective effort at pandering to any group he can. Like a weasel backed into a corner, Reeves is taking any advantage he can get. The Confederacy lasted four years. It had a start and an end. It is in the past and the past is dead. Bury it with the thousands slain in the war. Showing the Confederacy in a good light is like dying the wool of the black sheep which it so resembles. Reeves is trying to appeal to the same fool that would dye black fleece. Forgive, but never forget.

  5. Hunter Chunn says:

    If Governor Reeves truly cared to “gain insight from our [nation’s] mistakes and successes.”, he wouldn’t try and create a “Confederate Heritage Month.” The notion that there IS Confederate heritage to be had is insulting and a pathetic attempt at a thinly veiled attempt to entice potential voters. The Confederacy was an institution that fought to maintain slavery. The Confederacy’s only “heritage” is a legacy of racism. If Reeves truly cared about learning from Mississippi’s racist past he would dedicate a month to condemning slavery and learning about the people that fought to end it. Instead, he wants to celebrate the people who fought to maintain it.

  6. Gracie Rowland says:

    “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” Wow. What a quote. Yarby has stated it many times as well, and I never get tired of hearing it, for its truth permeates each and every one of our bones. The South is filled with the ghosts of martyrs and the forgotten voices of those trampled by a history written by white men, and we all feel their chill.

    The idea of a Confederate history month is heinous, absurd, beyond reason, and downright disgusting. How Tate Reeves sleeps with himself at night I don’t know.

    History is written in ink not lead, and this month will not be looked kindly upon by its yellowed pages. Years down the line we will grimace in remembrance as the world asks us how on earth something so disrespectful to millions of black Americans was allowed to proceed.

  7. Max Dobbs says:

    When discussing Confederate veneration in Mississippi, it is important to analyze the other horrific events that are still glorified in modern society. Christopher Columbus remains celebrated across the United States, despite having killed and enslaved hundreds of Native Americans. In China, Mao Zedong remains a national hero, despite having slaughtered millions of people and starved tens of millions more. In all instances, nationalism blinds common people to the horrors of their past and present.

    Mississippi is currently the poorest state in the nation, and other states have no qualms mocking it. Rather than address these issues, Gov. Reeves and other politicians, as nationalists do, appeal to a glorious past in which these problems did not exist. As a result, common white Mississippians are encouraged by everyone they know to support the Confederacy, as their very dignity depends on it. However, like the Confederacy, our government continues to do very little for white people and everything in its power to ruin the lives of black people.

  8. Mikayla Jones says:

    Tater Tot knows what he’s doing. He is simply trying to play his cards correctly to get reelected. He is trying to cater to the people who can do that. We all know he did not want to change the flag either, he was pressured into it. “Confederate History Month” is dumb. I understand it is important to learn from the past but this is definitely not the way to go. Like Micah said, the confederacy lasted four years. The band Outkast lasted longer than that; can we get a Outkast history month where they play Hey Ya! all day everyday? If he is trying to teach kids about the Civil War, the whole story needs to be told. It was not about states rights its about slavery. The confederacy is nothing to be celebrated. Some people like to yell “But my ancestors fought and died in the confederacy, I’m just honoring them.” Bro…your ancestors were racist. Descendants of nazis do not go around waving Nazi flags in Germany. They acknowledge what their ancestors did and learn from it. Confederate History Month, just like waving around confederate flags, is just another excuse for people to be racist. Tater Tot knows what he’s doing.

  9. Alexis Sorg says:

    I do not agree with the idea of “Confederate Heritage Month.” I do not agree with the fact that it will be used to “honor” Confederate soldiers. The Confederates were the bad guys. I feel that they do not deserve to be honored. I do however believe that history is something to learn from. I think it is important that we all learn our history so that we don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. But they way Reeves is doing it, I feel is completely wrong. There is a difference between looking at history to learn from it and attempting to “honor” those who fought for what was wrong.

  10. Courtenay Sebastian says:

    I agree with what several other people have spoken on. The confederate flag was taken down and a new flag was put up. Granted it is part of our history, it isnt something we should be celebrating. “Honoring” this is an awful way of dissing any other race that was not a confederate. Nuff said.

  11. Maddie Flowers says:

    “Tater Tot” is simply a people pleaser who is desperately trying to appeal to both sides. After changing our state’s flag, he received an overwhelming amount of hate from citizens who wanted to persevere our confederate history. For one, it’s embarrassing… the confederate’s lost… why would you want to rep the losing team’s merch?! Also, it’s incredibly racist, which I don’t even have to explain. This pathetic “Confederate History Month” is nothing but another way to please conservatives to ensure his reelection. However, I don’t think he understands the magnitude of his actions and how this is pushing us centuries back in time.

  12. Merideth Johnson says:

    I did not know of this and wow. I don’t think that Reeve’s is in his right mind when it comes to the racial history of Mississippi. He was pressured into changing the flag. I used to be on the fence about this issue because I never saw the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate. However, when I heard someone compare flying the Confederate flag to the Nazi flag, my mindset changed towards it. The Confederacy was for owning other people as property and this was their flag. The Nazis were for genocide and ethnic cleansing and they had a flag. The whole Confederate History Month is honestly so stupid. I agree with several people who have spoken already about how he is going about this backwards and catering to one radical side of the political spectrum. First he changes the flag, then turns around and proclaims Confederate Heritage Month. The Confederacy is not something to be proud of, it is something bad that we need to learn from and avoid defending it.

  13. Mackenzie Knighten says:

    I have never been so ashamed of somebody as much as I am of Reeves and this one of the reasons I refuse to address his as my governor. Why? That is a good question Dr. Easterling. I would absolutely love to hear his reasoning behind this because this is one of the most disrespectful things you can do. As an African American, it feels bad enough to grow up in a society where the people who hold power do not want to acknowledge everything that we went through and are still facing to this day. It is absolutely heartbreaking to not know your full history because America’s education system is not designed to teach African American history. Its heartbreaking enough to know that our ancestors were once slaves and they were treated as property by the people that fought on the confederate side in the Civil War. Why in the world would anybody want to give them a whole month to be acknowledged. You do not need to give people who couldn’t even see black people as their equal a month for people to learn about them. We live in Mississippi. We know all about the confederates. There other ways to educate people on our dark past. I feel as if this is another scheme to make the confederate side of the Civil War seem not as evil as they actually were and to downplay the horror they inflicted for years and Reeves knows this. If you made this a whole month for people to become educated about our history, shouldn’t you be proud of that? Wouldn’t you want to showcase all the “good” you’ve done?

  14. Chingun Tsogt-Erdene says:

    It took me a while and a lot of re-reading to fully understand and realize what this is. I feel sick. Reeves just did this to be favored by a group. There is nothing to honor in such a thing call ‘Confederate Heritage Month.’ An honor is supposed to be for good. There is nothing to appreciate the past and slavery. This is like if Germany celebrates Nazis! It raises so many questions why he even did this. Mississippi has a large black population and why would he even honor those that enslaved their ancestors? This is sick. Does he not feel for them? I would feel hurt if my state leader praised those that enslaved my family. Instead of “Honoring” it should be condemned.

  15. Nina Patel says:

    I disagree with “Confederate Heritage Month” because it completely disregards the wrong group representing us as a state. Why in the world would Reeves honor the people who enslaved many African Americans. It disgusts me how he can be that cruel to African Americans. African Americans already have it wrong enough; they do not get the recognition they deserve. They do not even get the decency they deserve. They certainly do not get the respect they deserve. Reeves was so wrong for this, and he expects that we should like it because he’s the governor?! Like, no. This is by far the worst thing I have heard from him. He irritates me so much. How dare he do this? How dare he treat the Black population?! They do not deserve this, and we should all strive for the rights that they deserve.

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