With all due respect, the governor is wrong – not about Michael Steele, but about himself.
The embattled RNC chair might or might not be held to a higher standard. That is open for debate.
But Haley Reeves Barbour is the chief executive officer of the state with perhaps the most checkered past in the nation on civil rights.
Mississippi has an image that it has fought for many years to overcome. And truth be known, Mississippi’s people and its leaders, including the current Republican governor, have done much to beat down that image – to portray the state as a 21st century leader in many areas. We should be proud of that.
But we are still the poorest, most unhealthy, least educated state in the country.
Despite that, we also have some of the smartest, most caring, most innovative people not only in America, but in the world.
Sometimes, though, people outside of Mississippi don’t see that because of that long, checkered past. Whenever Mississippians, especially Mississippi’s leaders, speak, we do so against the backdrop of our past and the perceptions that many mistakenly still have of us.
So, yeah, Mississippi, including its leaders, is judged by a higher standard, and that higher standard most definitely applies to our governor.
Barbour, now in his second term, has done much to help Mississippi overcome that image. He has been recognized for his efforts after Katrina. And he has been a tireless economic developer for the state.
But he also has had his moments where it could be argued he has helped to perpetuate that image – whether it was appearing at a meeting of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens or using as a wedge issue the state flag and the fact that then-incumbent Ronnie Musgrove endorsed a new flag that was not tied to the Confederacy.
This past weekend on CNN, the potential 2012 presidential candidate said the flap over the Virginia governor issuing a proclamation in honor of Confederate history month and not mentioning slavery was “a nit” that “doesn’t amount to diddly.” On Monday, The Associated Press reported that a similar proclamation signed by Barbour in Mississippi also did not mention slavery.
In a couple of weeks, on the last Monday in April, unless the Legislature is in town, this grand state Capitol will be locked up for Confederate Memorial Day.
It is a state holiday – has been for a long time.
As is tradition, I will work that day. Generally speaking, unless the Legislature is in town, the only people working in the Capitol on Confederate Memorial Day are the security officers and members of the media who work out of the fourth floor press room.
I wish I had a $1 for every time, I have walked out of the Capitol on that day to be confronted by out-of-state tourists asking why the Capitol was closed.
“Confederate Memorial Day,” I replied.
I understand and respect that people want to honor their ancestors who fought and died for the South in the Civil War. And I will concede that people on an individual basis fought that war for a number of reasons. Granted, many, if not most, of the Southern soldiers were not slave holders.
But with all due respect, not to acknowledge that on a state level the Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery, is just to deny history.
Just as it is important to a significant segment of our population to honor the sacrifices and struggles of their ancestors who fought in the Civil War, it is important for another segment of our population to recognize and respect what that war meant to them
For them, it ultimately meant freedom.
And with all due respect, when it comes to recognizing the Civil War, that is worth a diddly.
Bobby Harrison is Capitol Bureau chief in Jackson for the Daily Journal. Contact him at email@example.com or (601) 353-3119.