With the approval of Ballot Measure 3, Mississippi has adopted a new state flag.
While the former state flag, which featured a Confederate symbol, had been a topic of debate for decades, national and state issues of police brutality and systemic racism refocused attention on it. After 126 years, the state officially retired the flag in June and formed a committee to choose a new flag design.
After combing through hundreds of designs, the committee chose a final design for voters to decide on. The new flag incorporates a magnolia and the phrase “In God We Trust” on a blue background, which is surrounded by a circle of stars and red and gold stripes.
During the Nov. 3 election, Mississippi voters had the option to vote “yes” or “no” for the chosen flag design. 73% voted yes for Ballot Measure 3, which then passed.
Southern Miss hasn’t flown the state flag on its campuses since 2015, but President Rodney Bennett, Ph.D., announced plans to fly the new flag once the Legislature formally adopts it in early 2021.
“The vote to adopt a new state flag marks a historic moment, one that positions Mississippi for advancing our state’s growth and development at national and international levels,” Bennett said. “Once the new design is formally adopted as the official state flag by the Legislature, the University will raise the new flag, as well as once again raising the USM flag, on the campuses of The University of Southern Mississippi.”
While the campus will not fly the flag until it is formally adopted, students at Southern Miss have already begun to. Junior economics major Wayne Lambert decided to fly the new state flag outside of Phi Kappa Tau, his fraternity house.
“The reason I wanted to fly this flag is that I think it shows unity among all Mississippians,” Lambert said. “[The] reason being is that unlike the last flag where one side hated it and the other didn’t, I believe this flag will be loved by all in time. I also wanted to show the fraternity’s support in being the first to take this step to unify everyone, starting with Fraternity Row.”
Other students also react positively to the news of the new flag. Freshman psychology major Josh Batia says that he believes the new flag represents Mississippi citizens better.
“I think the [new] flag is more representative of Mississippians in general,” Batia said. “I think it’s a lot less divisive than the old flag. I’m glad that it got passed by democratic vote and that it happened that way.”
Lambert, too, believes the new state flag better represents the state’s history and symbols than the previous flag or designs did.
“The reason I love this flag more than all others is it actually gives meaning to the Magnolia State,” Lambert said. “There weren’t many things showing that we were that state. Also, the flag doesn’t forget about the Indian reserves in our state. Instead, they are represented by the gold star; the star is split to show the five different [indigenous] tribes.”
Batia says he disagrees with the inclusion of the “In God We Trust” phrase on the flag, which was a requirement that legislators mandated for the creation of a new flag.
“I do disagree with the writing on the flag, [and] I know that’s going to be a controversial topic for a lot of people,” Batia said. “But I think the flag is definitely a better step for Mississippi, and I think it’ll help us move into a more accepting future.”