In terms of image, this year has not been the best for Mississippi. Even though Gov. Phil Bryant now seems to carry the gospel of reconciliation (he declared October as Racial Reconciliation Month), he carried a different message as recently as April, when he declared it "Confederate Heritage Month." And to make matters worse, he made that declaration while Mississippi was in the middle of a struggle to remove the Confederate symbol from the state flag.
If the governor expects Mississippians to take his offer of reconciliation seriously, he has to apologize to our state—apologize for Confederate Heritage Month, apologize for fighting on the wrong side of the flag debate—and moving forward, support the removal of the Confederate emblem from our state flag. Tell the state Legislature that it's time for them to accept a resolution to vote on a new flag for Mississippi.
If the governor is only willing to express empty declarations of reconciliation without making a change, what's the point? Reconciliation denotes action. The flag is offensive to African Americans. There is no debate on that. The Confederate emblem must go.
Many don't seem to realize the effects that displaying this image is having on our state economy. Businesses have pulled out of Mississippi, stating that until we resolve our civil-rights issues, they will base their operations elsewhere. We are talking about jobs, people. Mississippi can't afford to take a loss of this magnitude. We need jobs.
Just last year, Mississippi ranked last as a state economy. We need to do what we have to in order to make our state attractive to corporations and companies. If Mississippi wants to join the rest of America in the 21st century, this is non-negotiable.
I have personally worked on initiatives to bring jobs to Mississippi, but it's hard recruiting companies to come to a state known for hatred and a dark past. I work in Washington, D.C., and it's almost depressing to hear what some people think of our state. As it stands now, our state's reputation and notoriety precedes us, so it's on us to begin the uphill battle of proving that Mississippi has changed.
After South Carolina stood up for what was right and removed the Confederate flag from their government institutions, it created a boom for their tourism and economy. They threw off the heritage of hate and embraced inclusion and acceptance, and the state continues to reap the rewards of that incredible stand.
If Bryant takes a stand to support the change of the flag, it will signal to the rest of the country that Mississippi is open for business, and we want you to do business in our state. It will show the rest of the nation that we want you to come and visit our state and witness the dawn of a new era of change.
We are asking the governor to accept his message of reconciliation and stand with us, but even if he doesn't, we will press forward.
Is the governor willing to fight against the millennial generation just so that some residents can hold on to the racist vestiges of their fathers?
This generation is declaring that enough is enough. We will stand and unify together to create a campaign that will bring down this flag. We will show the world that we refuse to hold on to our state's dark past, and we will usher in a new day filled with healing for our state.
Is the governor with us or against us? I challenge him to make good on his promise of reconciliation, and join with us to send a message to the world: that Mississippi will no longer support symbols of hate.
Duvalier Malone is the CEO and founder of Duvalier Malone Enterprises.