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Mississippi, circa 1894

MBJ Editorial

We came. We saw. We voted. And Mississippi is alive and well in 1894. In the wake of last Tuesday’s state flag referendum, it remains to be seen how we’ll be in 2001 and beyond.

One thing is certain: our failure to remove a divisive symbol of hatred, slavery and segregation for one in three Mississippians and countless others will do damage to the state’s economy — an economy that enjoyed healthy investment and growth in the 1990s, but whose future doesn’t look as bright.

Emotionally, voting on the flag was not easy for many of us regardless of the side we were on. However, from a basic business perspective, the only correct choice was to support the newly-designed flag. Dollars and cents — period.

Defenders of the 1894 flag never bought into the economic damage argument. We certainly hope that their skepticism turns out to be true, but don’t count on it. And what does that mean for Mississippi business? What’s the damage? Where’s the fallout from the April 17th vote?

For starters, say goodbye to a lot of meetings and conventions on the Coast. Don’t be surprised when companies pull advertising out of the state. Be prepared for an onslaught of stereotypical ridicule of how backwards Mississippi was, is and will always be.

This issue isn’t going away. Supporters of the old flag may have, in fact, won Tuesday’s battle, but the war remains.

This war is about image and economics, and while we might claim that it does not matter, it does. We can expect the damage from last Tuesday’s vote to be long-lasting, widely felt and embarrassing, too.

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