..from a Black Mississippi newspaper editor:

HATTIESBURG — As hard as we might try, doing the so-called “right thing” can bring about the wrong result. But then, that depends on how the outcome is being filtered. Although the War Between the States ended in April 1865, the battle continues to be fought over a red cloth – the symbol of the Confederate South – an image of disenfranchisement and intolerance.

While Mississippi has made significant strides in expunging the relics of slavery, Jim Crow and prejudice, the state’s past of bigotry continues to hang around its neck like decaying flesh. And at the center of this perceived angst is the Confederate battle flag, a symbol critics say is indicative of what is wrong with the South. Never mind that Mississippi has the highest percentage of black elected officials and black-owned business in the country.

In Mississippi, significant advances have been made from the newsroom to the boardroom, and in every endeavor in between. Apparently progress really doesn’t matter to the politically correct crowd, because they view the Confederate emblem embedded on the state ensign as a retardant to minority achievement – a dark reminder of how things used to be.

Well, an overwhelming percentage of Mississippians – white and black – didn’t see it that way when the state voted three years ago to retain the Confederate emblem in the state flag.

Now, 139 years after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered, we still find ourselves wrangling over a red piece of cloth. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other civil rights groups have made the removal of the Confederate flag their mission and have engaged in a misguided, one-note mantra aimed at its eradication – and everything Southern along the way.

Now the skirmish is taking up positions on the athletic field, where the contentious discourse does not belong. When Mississippi would not remove the Rebel emblem from the state banner, civil rights activists browbeat an all-too-willing National Collegiate Athletic Association into establishing a convoluted rule that precludes Magnolia colleges from being venues for athletic events. The NCAA is making the entire state feel the loss of revenue at the ticket office.

If you ask me, this is extortion in reverse.

To these anti-Rebel flag zealots, it is victory at all costs – never mind what economic damage is caused to the state along the way. Three years ago, the NCAA denied Delta State University in Cleveland the opportunity to host the Division II Swimming and Diving Championships because the Rebel flag was still waving over Magnolia.

It did not matter that DSU has one of the finest aquatic facilities in the country. And now Mississippi State University has lost out as the site for the 2004 Guardians Classic basketball tournament. In its narrow thinking, the NCAA decreed that no state could be a host site of a “predetermined tournament” where the Confederate emblem is on the state flag. That leaves Mississippi and Georgia out in the heat.

But Mississippi schools have been hosts to regional venues in baseball. This season, Ole Miss was a regional site in baseball. So go figure.

There is no way we can host this tournament. The NCAA policy won’t let us,” said a dismayed Larry Templeton, athletic director of Mississippi State. The snub is estimated to cost the Starkville business community about $200,000 from the two-day event that is scheduled for November. And some of those impacted interests are black owned. So who is being harmed here?

At a time when more minorities could be attracted to participate in sports other than football, basketball and baseball, racial politics and not the Confederate battle flag is the impediment to progress.

“There are not a lot of minorities in our sport,” said DSU swimming coach Ronnie Mayers. “By not being able to host, minorities are not given a chance to see our facilities and what takes place.”

The anti-Rebel flag crowd has done more to keep the banner in the public view than legendary filmmaker D.W. Griffith ever did with “Birth of a Nation.” And who loses? The very same people the liberal, politically correct crowd say they want to help the most.

This is a human dichotomy if ever there was one.

Isn’t it about time we put the South-North saga to rest and get on with the business of true nation-building? What is transpiring behind the scenes is pure racial subterfuge under the guise of healing that continues to create a human chasm where none should exist.

Donald V. Adderton is assistant managing editor of the Hattiesburg American. He can be contacted at dadderton@hattiesb.gannett.com

Donald V. Adderton
Assistant Managing Editor
Hattiesburg American
825 N. Main St.
Hattiesburg, MS 39401