Mississippi territory has existed since 1798, but the legislative and executive branches of our state government have repeatedly decided that 1861-1865 were the single most important four years in the state's 218-year history.
Like he has every year since at least 2013, Gov. Phil Bryant has declared April "Confederate Heritage Month," carrying on a tradition that started before be became governor.
During this month, Mississippi will officially "reflect upon our nation's past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us," his proclamation states.
Even if the Confederacy had been a utopian paradise—other than its having slavery—it would still be a despicable place.
I don't need a day to remember the Confederacy. The dead nation haunts me. As I walk around my campus at Ole Miss, I see relics of moral decay, because tradition is held at a higher value than human dignity. I am constantly bombarded by the same bogus lines about how heritage is important, how we mustn't forget our past.
I don't mind honoring the dead. I mind that our country has dozens of museums on the Confederacy and one—unfunded—museum on slavery. I mind that the Confederate dead are treated like ghostly icons while the bones of slaves are trampled upon because we don't know where their owners dumped their broken bodies.
Oh, I know about the Confederacy. In every U.S. history class I've taken since third grade I've learned about the war. Until I went to high school at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, not a single teacher would dare say the Civil War was about slavery. Instead, I was told how good men killed good men in a misguided attempt at liberty.
I refuse to watch silently as we continue to degrade ourselves with infested wounds of our past, a past that has not been made just. Slaves first came to the U.S. in 1619. Slavery was abolished in 1865. The Civil Rights Act wasn't passed until 1964.
Want to talk about heritage? Instead of dwelling on our four years as hate-mongering hillbillies—because if they couldn't be a rich plantation owner, at least they were white—who died in the defense of cruelty, let's talk about the 345 years where the U.S. utterly trampled on the dignity of those they made disadvantaged.
Let's talk about the 52 years since in which we've made some progress, but our black brothers and sisters are still suffering disproportionately from economic, social and educational hardships.
Our heritage is creating a society that has labeled black people lazy since the day they stopped working for free. Our heritage is judging those in poverty, questioning why they don't just go to college when we've spent centuries blocking their access to education, when people died because one man, Mr. James Meredith, chose to integrate what students here like to call the "Harvard of the South."
I'll honor my Confederate heritage when we've done anything substantial to right hundreds of years of wrongs.
Holly Baer is a senior religious-studies major from Flowood. This column originally appeared in the Daily Mississippian at the University of Mississippi. See jfp.ms/slavery to read the original story about Gov. Phil Bryant declaring April "Confederate Heritage Month," and other related coverage.