In Mississippi, not much has changed. This is the state whose governor just proclaimed April Confederate Heritage Month — without even mentioning slavery — and where Donald Trump won the Republican primary. And now, a Black civil rights lawyer who filed a federal lawsuit to have the Confederate emblem removed from the Mississippi state flag is receiving death threats.
As The Guardian reported, Carlos Moore, 39, an attorney from Grenada, Mississippi, has hired security protection and reported several threats he received to the FBI. In one of the worst attacks against Moore, a Facebook user from Corinth, Mississippi posted, “Ok somebody shot [sic] this P.O.S before he infects us all!” while displaying a handgun in his profile photo.
Another racist, a construction worker who claimed to be from Dallas, invoked the person convicted of assassinating Martin Luther King: “To all the people in Mississippi, Carlos Moore is trying to change your state flag. He is black and think a lot of other things mixed in too… If any of my bro’s out that way need my help to keep your flag the way it is I’m right here. Where is James Earl Ray when you need him.”
And another person posted: “He’s black, they hate white folk – storms happen, lightning strikes, buildings burn.”
In a federal complaint filed in Jackson, Moore asked the court to order Gov. Phil Bryant to remove the current flag — adopted in 1894 and the only remaining state flag to incorporate the Confederate battle emblem — from the state capitol and all other state property. In 2001, Mississippi voters decided by a 2-to-1 margin to keep the current flag.
The Black lawyer argues that the rebel flag is a vestige of slavery.
“The state flag with its confederate emblem represents white supremacy, slavery, beatings, rape, lynchings, murders, insurrection, and treason. It is a constant reminder of the oppression African-Americans had to endure in the past and an implicit threat that it could happen again,” Moore told NBCBLK. “Removing the flag will change the hearts and minds of many in Mississippi because it will let those stuck in the past know that the state no longer sanctions or ratifies racial bigotry.”
The suit says the Mississippi flag represents “hateful government speech” and “encourages or incites private citizens to commit acts of racial violence” and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As examples of “violent conduct” the Confederate symbol engenders and represents, the suit also mentions the 2015 Charleston, S.C., massacre, and the November 2015 bombing of a Wal-Mart in Mississippi following the decision by that chain to stop selling the flag. The suit also referenced a 2014 incident in which someone had draped a noose on the statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. Meredith integrated the school in 1962.
Similar federal cases in Alabama and Georgia have failed because courts were not convinced the Confederate emblem incited violence. In 1996, a federal judge ruled that the Georgia flag — which at that time had a Confederate emblem that was added in 1956 in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s school desegregation order in Brown vs. Board of Education — should remain flying.
“There simply is no evidence in the record indicating that the flag itself results in discrimination against African-Americans,” said U.S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans, as reported by the Associated Press.
Moore was inspired to file the complaint because, as The Guardian reported, “My daughter is five years old and I don’t want her growing up in this racist bigoted environment that is supported by the state. I want her to live in a state that has a unifying flag that does not promote racial violence or subject its African-American citizens to second-class status.”
Further, Moore was motivated by Gov. Bryant’s decision to make April Confederate Heritage Month, an announcement the governor made, of all months, in February, during Black History Month.
Bryant called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said voters should decide whether to change the state flag. And Mississippi’s attorney general Jim Hood, the only Democrat holding statewide office in the Magnolia state, said he will defend the flag, even as he believes the flag should change and hurts the state.
“I think the Legislature should take the ball and change the flag,” Hood said, according to ABC News. “It has an impact on us economically and the spirit of our state, our people. It’s time to make a change in the flag.”
Meanwhile, white supremacy is as white supremacy does. And those forces will continue to defend the subjugation of Black people at any cost, and uphold the time-honored symbols of white power.