We’re still grappling with whether or not we should remove confederate monuments, but New Jersey is taking the battle over an ugly part of American history to the next level.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) ordered the Mississippi flag to be removed at Liberty State Park and replaced with the American flag, citing the Magnolia State flag’s confederate emblem.
“New Jersey’s strength is rooted in our diverse communities,” Murphy said in a press release regarding the order. “The Confederate symbol displayed on the Mississippi state flag is reprehensible and does not reflect our values of inclusivity and equality. I applaud Senator Cunningham for bringing this issue in her district to my attention.”
Murphy referred to state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, who had asked him to remove the flag due to the emblem.
“The Confederate flag symbolizes an era of hate, violence, and division,” Cunningham said. “I thank Governor Murphy for his commitment to tolerance and equality and for the decision to remove this hateful symbol from Liberty State Park. Hate has no home in New Jersey.”
Liberty State Park in Jersey City features Freedom Way, which includes poles adorned with every state’s flag.
As Buzzfeed reported, the governor of Mississippi was not happy with New Jersey’s action.
“As I have repeatedly said, the voters of Mississippi should decide what the state flag is or is not," said Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS).
Buzzfeed also reported that the Mississippi flag is the only one in the country that still contains the Confederate battle emblem, as Georgia replaced its flag in 2004 to remove the emblem. Mississippi voted in 2001 — long before the outrage over centuries-old statutes — to keep its flag the way it was.
This is not to say that everyone in Mississippi currently feels that way or still feels that way. Legislators in the state have tried and are trying to change the flag. State Sen. Kenneth Wayne Jones, a Democrat, told Buzzfeed that “the time is now to change our flag.”
"The [Confederate] flag has always had such an ugly past and an ugly history. None of this is new. It’s just the mindset of the people in the South that’s changing," Jones said.
While Buzzfeed noted that the flag has defenders, it failed to quote any of them or provide their actual arguments for keeping part of the state’s (ugly) history on its flag.
No matter, as what Mississippi wants doesn’t matter in New Jersey. Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver disputed arguments about keeping history in a tweet praising Murphy’s decision to remove the flag from the state park.
“We know what the Confederate symbol represents and it has no place in New Jersey. There is a difference between acknowledging history versus glorifying it,” Oliver tweeted.
In 2015, South Carolina removed the Confederate flag that was flying at its state house after a white supremacist murdered nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Since then, it has been replaced and removed several times.