Cockamamy Cock-ups

Protesters in front of USM | personal photo

Several seemingly random things are occurring right now in Mississippi, but they are actually rather connected and it basically boils down to The Confederacy vs The Civil Rights.

I took the above photo on a drizzly, cold day back in December.  That small band is committed, I tell ya.  The debate about our state flag didn’t really start up until that church was tragically shot up last June in South Carolina.  There have been bands of people wanting the state flag changed for a while, but this is the event that took it all a step further.

However, since June of 2015, this is not the only Pro-Flag Rally, nor the only protest happening in Mississippi.  It is also not the only one’s happening in my home town of Hattiesburg.  There was one official protest back in October at USM, which was actually quite lovely as far as protests go, then there are the lone For-Flag supporters who randomly appear in front of the university.  So yeah, not much actually, but that’s about on par for Hattiesburg.  I honestly don’t think many people here even take them seriously.  Honestly, look at the For-Flag supporters vs the, albeit also small in numbers, Anti-Flag supporters during that October protest.

I did state at the end of that post that the Anti-Flag people weren’t coming up with flag designs.  It was just one guy who submitted four very similar designs.  That changed by November as several other new flag designs had been proposed.  There have even been a few other proposed designs this year.

However, our state government refused to call a special session to discuss the flag last year, and this past Tuesday was the deadline for them to vote on anything regarding the flag… and well, Mississippi now has to keep the current flag with the Confederate emblem on it for another year?  Ridiculous.

Generally, I would say that a measly flag is not worth the effort, that there are much more important things to be worrying about.  But this flag is dividing the people of this state.  It’s dividing the nation from this state, as well as other countries.  It’s causing troubles and making a mess.  This is the time that a flag should be worth more effort; not to be shoved under the rug, but to be discussed, and apparently changed.

This might not be that big of a deal, and I say might, except for the fact that Mississippi is almost finished building the first state-funded Civil Rights museum in the nation.  You read that correctly.  In time for Mississippi’s bi-centennial of statehood next year, we’re opening two new museums in the capital, one of which is about the Civil Rights.  It would actually be really cool that we’re getting a Civil Rights museum, or that it’s the first one in the entire nation to be strictly state-funded, because it means that the tiny little state of Mississippi chose, all on its own, to have this built, as well as the fact that we’re getting a Civil Rights museum!

But then, we’re not changing our state flag to get rid of the Confederate emblem, and our governor just proclaimed April to be Confederate Heritage Month.  I’m not even kidding, though I wish that I were.

We already celebrate Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday in April.  I’m actually OK with that.  I’m OK with remembering the Confederate Dead, since nobody else wants to.  I don’t do anything, I just take a moment to reflect on it.   Considering that the majority of soldiers were just people, and were not the wealthy slave owners and did not knowingly go to war and die to protect a cause they couldn’t care either way about since it didn’t affect them.  However, I do not agree with honouring or remembering the generals and other wealthy slave owners.

But, am I OK with taking an entire month to celebrate Confederate history?  Absolutely not.  We do not need an entire month to re-hash the Civil War.  I would be OK with April, or a different month, being Mississippi History Month.  A month in which you learn about the entirety of Mississippi.  From the Indigenous populations who were here, the first European settlers, the forming of the state, even a brief bit on the Civil War because it is part of the history of the state, and all the way up to Mississippi right now.  Of course one would need to include the history of slavery in the state, segregation, and Civil Rights.  One would also not need to white-wash any of the information.  And I mean any of it.  Not simply glorifying the Confederacy or glancing over anything to do with African-Americans.  I’m also talking about not glancing over the Indigenous peoples or glorifying the European Colonists, which is still something that the majority of people in this entire nation still do.

Gov. Bryant believes Mississippi’s history deserves study and reflection, no matter how unpleasant or complicated parts of it may be.”   I agree with that.  Mississippi’s History.  But that’s now what he’s after.  He only wants to glorify the Confederacy.  I’m all for history, but I’m also for learning and knowing the truth about the entirety of historical events, not biased views, no matter which side has them.  If we’re not going to lay it all out there and dissect it and actually see it, then what is the point in looking at any history at all?

It’s one reason that I write so much about the Confederacy and the Civil War in this blog.  It’s not that I like either thing, it’s that it is something that my state went through and for some reason is still going through.  Everyone, including Mississippians, have made it a part of what defines us as a state, so I’m going to talk about it, because to a certain extent it affects me.  But, I’m going to lay everything out there.  I’m going to discuss all the truths and logics and I don’t leave things out or paint a pretty picture for anyone.  Why would I?  The “pretty picture” is not the truth.  We’re supposed to be learning from our mistakes by reviewing the past, and there’s nothing to learn if it’s all some twisted form of garbage.

But I don’t want a Confederate History Month.  It’s a waste of a perfectly good month.  An unbiased, non white-washed, honest to god truthful history month for all events, good or bad that have occurred in Mississippi, is however, a really great idea.  Something, I suppose similar to what Natchez is doing for their Tri-Centennial this year.  They’re doing a Natchez Minute.  Just a little snippet of something in Natchez’s 300 + history.  We could do more than a minute since we’d be getting a month and not a year, but yes, something informative, but not overly so to where it’s boring, which is probably how all of my stuff is written.  So, someone who could take my words and make them clear, concise, and to the point.

Speaking of… getting back on point.  Who in the world is going to want to visit a Civil Rights Museum in a state that is still flying a state flag with a Confederate emblem on it or who devotes an entire month to Confederate pride history?  No one.  I mean, I’ll be going, because I am interested in the Civil Rights movement.  I also am hoping that my state doesn’t fuck it up and white-wash the entire affair, so I’ll want to check in on that.  But, I am not everyone else in the world or in the United States.  I’m not someone deciding where I want to holiday and which historical things I would like to see, and thus deciding to take Mississippi off of my personal list.  I kind of can’t do that, as I live here, and state travel is the easiest option for me.

One last thing, this was a small op-ed piece I came across; Chaining Mississippi to a Despicable Past.  I agree, overall with the piece and her view, which is why I’m including it.  There are some great lines and points in it.

I’ll just go ahead and say what I’m sketchy about.

The part about museums:

Baer states that there are “dozens of museums on the Confederacy and one—unfunded—museum on slavery.

This statement is misleading.  For one, the use of unfunded makes one think that all museums are fully funded, as either by the federal or state level.  Museums are funded through a very small portion of federal or state funds, but mainly by donations, private endowments, and ticket and merchandise sales.  So no museum is actually fully funded and all are under-funded, because ticket and merchandise sales alone can’t keep a museum afloat, and the government doesn’t pitch in hardly anything.

Also the Confederate Museums she’s referring to are in fact Civil War Museums or battle sites in various states across the north and the south, because there are quite a number of those.  That’s a big difference.  Now, I’ve not been to all of them obviously, but I have been to a fair share here in the south and those have been pretty balanced as far as information goes.  The information’s not actually correct, but then it’s not correct in the textbooks either, but I’ve not seen them lean more towards Confederacy Glorification, as this statement applies.

As far as Confederate Museums go, I won’t count tiny one’s out of someone’s home as there are millions of that type of museum on any subject including Civil Rights.  But as far as major museums go, there are three.  One in Charleston, SC, one in Richmond, VA, and one in New Orleans, LA.  Three does not make a dozen.

As far as the Slavery Museum goes, Baer decides to skip vital information here.  There is only one in the nation, as she states, but it is in the south, just outside of New Orleans.  It’s a plantation home, but instead of talking about the fabulousness of crinoline and fancy dinner parties, it is a memorial to the enslaved.  That is all actually rather important.

Let me repeat that.  A former plantation home, in the south, is the only slavery museum in the nation.  It is a memorial to the enslaved.  In the south.  In a former plantation home.  Are you getting the significance of this?

Also it is funded the same as any other museum or historic home/building in the nation (not those dinky, “I made a museum in my home type places.”), meaning, it’s barely funded at all.  Unlike the statement, it is not the only museum to be unfunded, as they pretty much all are.

But it is not the only museum to feature slavery.  There are a slew of African-American and Civil Rights history museums in the nation.  They all feature history starting with pre-slavery or slavery and ending with current events.  I’m not saying this is all we should have, nor should we not have more museums solely dedicated to slavery in America, because we totally should.  It’s just that Baer’s one little statement makes it seem like this isn’t anywhere out there and that Confederate history greatly out-trumps African-American history, which is just not accurate and also rather misleading.

The part about education:

As far as her statements on what she learned in school.  Pretty much every hot topic is glossed over and misconstrued in school textbooks.  Textbooks I’ll remind you that are not produced on a state by state basis, but nationally.  The same thing one learned in Oregon or New York is the same thing I learned in Mississippi in the 1980s and 1990s.  Which on several subjects was dismal at best.  Slavery and the Indigenous peoples was always glossed over in the texts.  The colonization of America was white-washed into oblivion and back and the Civil War amounted to a very juvenile school yard pissing contest.  What else the teacher may have relayed was personal opinion or what they themselves learned in school from previous nationally produced textbooks of their era.

Her statement is misleading as to make one think that the school textbooks were responsible for the Confederate Glorifications that she learned, which is inaccurate.  Besides the entire “history” of that war is convoluted, by both sides, and in major need de-mythification from all parties concerned.

Apart from those two things, she made excellent points and it’s worth reading and pondering over.

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