On the anniversary of the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia Representative David Baria has released the following statement:

One year later the events in Charlottesville still evade simple description. The tragic loss of life and violent imagery have been forever seared into our collective consciousness and will be remembered as one of the darkest chapters in modern American history. While the events from last year seem ripped from the past, we have a duty to acknowledge that hatred and racism remain alive and well in America today.

We must be wary of leadership that refuses to call out hate by name. And while cynical politicians concerned more about re-election assent to hate groups with a wink and a nod, their refusal to condemn hateful behavior makes them complicit in those actions. We have the obligation to denounce not just hate but those who refuse to condemn it. Which is why as Mississippians it is long past time for us to address our own shortcomings.

Among the images from Charlottesville, the Confederate flag was featured prominently, clutched in the hands of angry White Nationalists. By continuing the use of the confederate flag in our state flag, Mississippi provides tacit support for hate groups, including those who marched in Charlottesville. Hate groups and hateful people have been emboldened by the silence of our leaders and the condoning of hateful symbols.

My son will feel pain when he looks up at our flag – he just doesn’t fully know why yet. At 10 years old he hasn’t fully learned about the dark time that flag symbolizes – but too many of our citizens feel that pain every day when they see our flag. No one should feel unwelcome in their home – and every day that flag is up it sends a message to thousands of Mississippians that they are not wanted in this state. It breaks my heart that as a father I will have to explain why the state he loves continues to embrace a symbol of hatred –  a conversation that too many parents across this state have had to have with their children for generations.

The time is now to retire the current state flag and adopt a new, more inclusive emblem for all Mississippians. We can show the world that in Mississippi we believe in the inherent equality of all people. We can be leaders on the world stage by setting aside our hateful past and embracing the power of the human spirit in a time when that spirit seems to be lacking. To quote my good friend Professor Cliff Johnson “I love Mississippi and care deeply about how things turn out here. I want to change the flag not because I hate Mississippi – I want to change it because I love it and know we can do better.”

Representative David Baria Press Release