After three hours of debate between attorney Carlos Moore and attorneys representing the state of Mississippi, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves delayed his decision in regard to a case in which Moore seeks to eliminate the flag as a state symbol on April 14.
In the hearing, the attorneys discussed the legal standing of the lawsuit and whether the court has authority to rule on such an issue.
Moore argued under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and used the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide as an example. Moore said a majority of justices under that case found the Constitution protects a person’s fundamental dignity rights.
Gov. Phil Bryant said he supports the results of the 2001 referendum by which voters chose to keep the banner containing the Confederate emblem, though he believes that if the flag is to be changed, it should be done by a statewide vote again.
Reeves said the flag is symbolic to those who fought to flee the United States, which is anathemic to anybody who lives within the 21st century.
“We’re still arguing about a flag in 2016 and arguing about a flag that is anti-American,” Reeves said.
This all began on Feb. 29, one week after attempts to remove Confederate imagery in the state were dismissed, when Moore, an African-American lawyer from Grenada, Mississippi filed a lawsuit against Gov. Bryant for flying of the state flag, which he believes is “painful, threatening and offensive” and signals that the state promotes the symbolism of slavery and white supremacy against African-Americans.
Moore said his and all the African-American state citizens’ constitutional rights have been violated on their Fourteenth Amendment protections. According to Moore, the Confederate States of America emblem on the state flag signals that Mississippi approves and promotes the meaning of the Confederacy, as well as his ancestral slavery that the CSA was established to protect. He believes it is one thing “to commemorate the valor and sacrifices of Mississippians who died on both sides,” but it is another to enshrine the emblem of “the unconstitutional cause that the CSA represented.”
Nathan Barron, a junior political science major and the author of the 2015 Student Government Association Senate Resolution to Remove Flag from Campus, said he agrees with Moore’s argument to pursue the case under the Fourteenth Amendment, but believes he could have more success arguing under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Because Moore’s challenge uses the Equal Protection Clause, he has to prove discriminatory intent and, while I certainly believe there was discriminatory intent, that will be hard to argue before a federal judge,” Barron said. “However, if he had used Title VII, he would have to prove a disparate effect on account of the Confederate emblem’s display. This argument has proven to be repeatedly effective in U.S. v. Blanding and Dixon v. Coburg Dairy.”
Moore also said he is doing this for his five-year-old daughter. She is set to begin public school in August of this year and he does not wish for her to have the same life of feeling as a “second class citizen” like he has. He also fears for her safety and hopes to shield her from the pain it can inflict.
Furthermore, the public display and support of Confederate symbols have arisen much debate with various events targeting African-Americans occurring recently.
“In the past cases, the rulings noted that plaintiffs needed to show that the flag promoted racial violence,” Moore said. “We have incidents in Mississippi that show that clearly.”
These events include the following: the mass killing of nine African-American people in South Carolina on June 17, 2015; the bombing of South Carolina Wal-Mart by a flag-drapped radical in response to the chain’s discontinuing sales of confederate-related in November 2015; the discovered placing of a noose and Confederate flag around the neck of a statue of James Meredith, the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi, at the university in February 2014; and hangings of African-American men in various areas of Mississippi.
Because of these recent discriminatory killings in and near Mississippi, timing is of the essence in Moore’s opinion. He believes it is only a matter of time before more violent acts occur.
“All the other southern states have seen the light — Mississippi can’t seem to get it, but we’re trying to help them see and understand that that’s not acceptable,” Moore said. “No civil rights have been advanced in Mississippi without federal intervention, so we expect the federal government to protect us in this instance.”
Barron agrees with Moore on the timeliness of the case because he believes the national attention finally being paid to this topic has led Moore to feel rightfully empowered to challenge the flag.
Barron said he feels that Moore’s afflictions regarding the flag are plausible.
“First of all, when a state has a continued history of state-sanctioned racial terror — which, as included in Mr. Moore’s petition, even includes several cases of lynching dating up to last year — the victims of that terror tend to have psychological and physiological impacts,” Barron said. “In fact, preliminary research from a research lab at Jackson State University is beginning to explore African-American psychological and physiological responses to racially-charged trauma.”
The issues of public displays of the Confederate emblem has lead many to join together based on their opinions of the issues. Several have created Facebook groups to advocate for what they believe is right.
One Facebook group, “Change the Mississippi State Flag”, said the page was made in February 2014 when the public destruction to the James Meredith statue occurred.
“At that time we thought it was time to address the fact the Mississippi flag has the confederate emblem on it and that it is time to move on from that kind of symbolism,” anonymous representatives from the group said.
They said when they first began they had barely 1,000 followers, but grew steadily with support.
“The mass murders committed by Dylann Roof at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the actions of the South Carolina legislature as well as the Governor of Alabama, by removing all confederate flags from state property, increased the incentive to remove the Confederate emblem from the Mississippi flag,” anonymous representatives said.
“That is where we are very similar in stance with Attorney Moore.”
The group also noted that they do try to advocate for Moore through Facebook shares of anything tied to his case.