To millions of people, particularly African-Americans, the Confederate battle emblem is a symbol of the Old Mississippi – the Mississippi of slavery, lynchings, pain, and white supremacy. As Justice Fred Banks noted, the Confederate battle emblem “takes no back seat to the Nazi Swastika” in its ability to provoke a visceral reaction.
The emblem offends more than just African-Americans. Mississippians of all creeds and colors regard it as “one of the most repulsive symbols of our past.” It is difficult to imagine how a symbol borne out of the South’s intention to maintain slavery can unite Mississippians in the 21st centiry.
Since the Civil War, this nation has evolved and breathed new life into “We the People” and “all men are created equal.” Mississippi is known for its resistance to that evolution. Part of that resistance stems from electing demagogues and those with empty rhetoric and false courage. The result is a State increasingly isolated from the rest of the nation.
At times there is something noble in standing alone. This is not one of those times. The Confederate battle emblem has no place in shaping a New Mississippi, and is better left retired to history.
For that change to happen through the judiciary, however, the Confederate battle emblem must have caused a cognizable legal injury. In this case no such injury has been articulated. Whether that could be shown in a future case, or whether “the people themselves” will act to change the state flag, remains to be seen.
This case is dismissed. A separate Final Judgment will issue.
–US District Judge Carlton Reeves