(originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the October 30, 2015 Daily Mississippian newspaper: http://thedmarchives.com/letter-to-the-editor-34/)
A couple of weeks ago, I was walking past the Capitol in Washington, DC on my way to watch an Ole Miss football game with other DC alumni. In a park off to the side, about a dozen or so white men and women were waving the Confederate battle flag. They were some yards away from me, and separated from a seething multitude of black men and women by steel fences and the Capitol police. It struck me that I could not tell from a distance whether it was a Ku Klux Klan rally or proud supporters of the Confederate flag.
All I saw was the symbol.
Today, I viewed a Facebook post from a friend who criticized Ole Miss students for voting to take down the Confederate battle flag. I had to correct her: the students voted to take down the Mississippi flag. As does everyone, she had conflated the two.
All she saw was the symbol.
There are those who continue to fly the Confederate flag in a fever dream of gallantry and knights and fair ladies. And there are also the Dylann Roofs, flying the Confederate flag while dreaming of murdering people in a church because of their skin color. From a distance, nobody can discern the difference.
All they see is the same symbol.
There is a distance from commencement on a warm May day to your future as a graduate from a Mississippi university. In the reach of that distance, there are those who might employ you, potential coworkers, possible friends, and the jackpot of finding love. You will approach them all from a distance. What symbol will you be flying when they see you?
The Confederate flag is not Mississippi’s symbol. Take it down.
Randy M. Wadkins, Ph.D.
B.S. UM 1986, Ph.D. UM 1990