News & Politics

CNN Asked for Redesigns of the Mississippi State Flag... and They're All 'Meh'

The retired Mississippi state flag is raised over the Capitol grounds one final time in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The banner was the last state flag with the Confederate battle emblem on it. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The voters of Mississippi will be voting on a new state flag in November. In response to George Floyd protests and BLM riots, the pressure finally reached a point where the state legislature and the governor agreed to change their “controversial” flag, which evokes the Confederate battle flag which triggers too many people these days.

CNN, in their infinite wisdom, decided to do a little exercise where they “reached out to five Black emerging artists who grew up in Mississippi with the prompt to reimagine the state flag. Now, I could point out that CNN only asking black artists to come up with proposals made their process extremely racist, but that’s another issue for another time. I just want to look at what they came up with.

I have to say I’m not a fan of any of these proposals. As someone who does graphic design, and has some opinions on flag design, I prefer simplicity. I think flags, like logos, must be simple and scalable to be legible at any size or from a far distance. None of these quite fit the bill. The two in the middle row come the closest, but a stylized ‘M’ for Mississippi seems like a lazy approach to representing a state, and a blatant attempt to ignore its history.

I like the one in the middle row on the right side the most, but the magnolia emblem on the left side (which by itself is very nice) gets lost in small scale. A star would be a better icon for that space, but even with such a change, the flag design seems too modern for a state flag that should evoke its history.

No one asked me for my opinion, but I’m giving it. But I’m also giving more than that. As a freelance graphic designer, I thought it was worth not just examining the above flag proposals, but also coming up with my own suggestion. So I did. Keep in mind I’m not condoning the decision to change the existing flag, I’m simply acknowledging the fact that a change is coming.

In considering what to do with the Mississippi flag, I approached it with the understanding that such a move in itself is just as controversial as the confederate imagery in the current version of the flag. Drastic changes are likely to meet significant resistance. “I know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag changed. They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history — a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect,” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, said last month. “I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome.”

“I reject the mobs tearing down statues of our history — North and South, Union and Confederate, Founding Fathers and veterans. I reject the chaos and lawlessness and I am proud it has not happened in our state,” Reeves continued. “I also understand the need to commit the 1894 flag to history and find a banner that is a better emblem for all Mississippi.”

So, when it came to a revision, I only made a small change:

In the above concept, I swapped out the confederate imagery for a blue canton with 13 stars reminiscent of the original Betsy Ross flag. That’s it. The number of stars remains the same from the previous version. The circular arrangement of the stars implies unity and connects nicely to our country’s founding (even though Mississippi was not one of the original thirteen colonies). Simply put, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel here. This entire process will require compromise from all sides, and, in my opinion, this option accomplishes that.

Of course, the decision isn’t up to me. A commission will be developing a new design that axes the confederate symbol. The flag will also include the phrase “In God, We Trust” on it. Whatever the design ends up being proposed by the commission, that one design will be what the people of Mississippi will be asked to vote on. In my opinion, a subtle change has the best shot of being approved by the voters.

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Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trumpand the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

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