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OUR VIEW: Confederate Heritage Month a relic of the past

Another April has come and gone, and with it the usual outcry over Confederate Heritage Month.

Again, as usual, state leaders thumb their noses at those who speak against the holiday.

Mississippi is one of only three states that declare Confederate Memorial Day a state holiday every year, along with South Carolina and Alabama.

A whole host of organizations speak out against the holiday each year, citing racist undertones and wastes of taxpayer dollars, among other reasons. Those speaking against the holiday being officially recognized by the state have a point. In a place like Mississippi, where race and its implications permeate everything we do, and where many areas of the state still haven’t recovered from the effects of the Civil War, it seems as though dwelling on the antiquated, romanticized Old South is counter-productive.

That’s not to say we should erase the Civil War, or slavery or the Confederacy or Reconstruction from history books. It happened, and ignoring it isn’t going to change the aftereffects on the American people or spare anyone’s feelings in the long run – nor should sparing feelings be the goal.

“My heritage!” is the common cry of those in favor of the holiday. And, truth be told, Mississippi tourism is largely dependent upon Antebellum and Civil War sites. While some may view these sites as monuments to the glory of the Old South, many actually serve as tools to educate about the reality of life leading up to the Civil War and as cautionary tales about the dangers of a divided nation.

However, when state leaders waste time and energy holding onto the relics of the Confederacy and the “Lost Cause” mentality, it diverts attention from more important issues, such as teacher pay, Medicare reform and infrastructure.

Mississippi’s problems are far-reaching: shrinking population, thousands at or below the poverty line, workforce issues, teacher shortages. Declaring and supporting the Confederate Heritage Month and Confederate Memorial Day holidays is nothing more than an attempt by right-wing state leaders to annoy the “woke left” instead of doing what they were elected to do: listen to their constituents and solve real problems.

The notion of Confederate Heritage Month as a whole, and the same old song-and-dance each year wherein the holiday is declared and members of the public condemn it, is tiresome. It’s worn out. It is time for leaders in Mississippi to stop clinging to Dixieland, and start focusing on Mississippi’s future.

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