State Politics

Why a ‘born-again’ black Republican is proud of Mississippi’s flag

DeBorah Simpson speaks about being a black republican at a lunch held by the Harrison County Republican Women on Monday, March 27, 2017, at the Great Southern Golf Club in Gulfport.
DeBorah Simpson speaks about being a black republican at a lunch held by the Harrison County Republican Women on Monday, March 27, 2017, at the Great Southern Golf Club in Gulfport. amccoy@sunherald.com

Well into the discussion of the Mississippi state flag at the Harrison County Republican Women’s Club on Monday at the Great Southern Golf Club, someone noticed the state flag was not in attendance.

There was what Greg Stewart of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, one of the featured speakers, called the rare “pizza flag,” one of the flags once pitched as a replacement. Several people had reproductions of the flag on wallet cards. There was an American flag.

The flag has become toxic in some quarters. Some businesses have stopped flying it. All the public universities took it down.

But the GOP women embraced it, standing to say the pledge of allegiance to the missing flag.

Stewart and DeBora Simpson, a black woman who calls herself a “born-again” Republican, both said blacks who embrace the flag realize it is part of their history, too.

“Actually, I’m proud of the flag,” said Simpson, “because it reminded me of what my ancestors went through to afford me the chances I have.”

Stewart said while there is a lot of opposition to the flag in urban areas, in rural parts of the state — where blacks and whites know one another as neighbors — there is far less. He called efforts to change the flag was just a “cheap token” to offer blacks instead of respect.

“There is a portion of black Mississippians who aren’t fooled,” said Stewart. He said slavery was a horrible institution but “If that’s how you got here and that’s your journey, you wouldn’t want that swept under the rug.”

Still, Stewart said, he would accept a new flag if that was the will of the people.

“I live in today’s Mississippi,” said Stewart, whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy. “If today’s Mississippi wants a change, I’d be OK with that.”

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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