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Should Mississippi’s new state flag include cans of Michelob Ultra? Elvis? Guitars? Big-ass magnolia blossoms? Guitars and big-ass magnolia blossoms? Obvious memes?
The state has to decide soon. Luckily, it has a lot of options.
Mississippi is now sitting on 2,000-plus publicly submitted designs for its state flag, all of which can be viewed online. Any new banner has to contain the words “In God We Trust” and can’t feature any of the former flag’s Confederate imagery, which legislators voted to do away with in June.
“This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled and move on,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said in June, before signing a bill to strike the state’s controversial flag, according to the Associated Press. “We are a resilient people defined by our hospitality. We are a people of great faith. Now, more than ever, we must lean on that faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good.”
A commission of nine people is now presented with the immense task of choosing a flag that sheds the state’s racist imagery by Sept. 2. Some of the options are decidedly muted. The magnolia, for example, featured heavily in Mississippi’s flag before it included Confederate imagery, and lots of people proposed some magnolia blossom-themed design.
Others are decidedly not.
One new submission enthusiastically declared “In GOD We Trust” and contained an image of Jesus winking and giving a thumbs-up. One said “In Yaweh we trust, In God we trust, In Allah we trust, no establishment of religion.” One flag used emoji to spell out Mississippi — with the double Ps being, yes, eggplants.
In ranking their favorites, commissioners can pull from the batch of designs released Monday or favor their own designs instead, according to the Clarion-Ledger. Members of the commission can also combine various elements from their favorite submissions, many of which appear to have been drawn by children.
Commissioners first have to each determine their 25 preferred submissions before eventually narrowing their choices down to five finalists.
There will also be a brief public comment period on designs in August, according to the Clarion-Ledger, and officials from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History will also have a chance for input. By early September, the commission will have to agree on a design together. Voters will have their say on a statewide ballot in November, after they last voted to keep the flag in a 2001 referendum.
Mississippi’s Confederate-symbol flag was chosen in 1894, shortly after the state revised its constitution to incorporate Jim Crow laws, according to an NBC News opinion piece written by Anne Marshall, an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University.
More than a century later, Mississippi was the last state to bear any sort of Confederate image on its flag. While Mississippi had previously resisted changing it, legislators were confronted this year with national uprising over racism and a new push to remove the imagery.
Cover: Collage of screenshots from Mississippi’s public submissions made with Canva.