You might not feel the need to celebrate Confederate heritage for any time at all, but Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant thinks a full month should be devoted to this practice. Specifically, April. In a recent proclamation, the governor declared April Confederate Heritage Month, writing that it is "important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation's past," and "to gain insight from our mistakes," but also, "successes." The governor does not mention slavery.
The Jackson Free Press first reported news of the proclamation, which was written earlier this month, on Wednesday. It may have taken this long for the press to learn about the proclamation because it was never posted to Bryant's website, where more reasonable statements are posted. The proclamation was instead published on the Sons of Confederate Veterans Mississippi division's channel. The group has a lot of sympathy for Confederate soldiers, and not just as an important part of our deeply troubling American history.
"The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America," reads a statement on the groups homepage. It continues:
The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South's decision to fight the Second American Revolution. The tenacity with which Confederate soldiers fought underscored their belief in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. These attributes are the underpinning of our democratic society and represent the foundation on which this nation was built.
This statement, which also leaves out the highly motivating factor of defending slavery, is not one you'd think a governor would want to be associated with. But Bryant is standing by his proclamation, according to his communications director Clay Chandler, who told The Times-Picayune that Bryant is just taking the same honorable stance as his political forebears:
Like his predecessors — both Republican and Democrat — who issued similar proclamations, Gov. Bryant believes Mississippi's history deserves study and reflection, no matter how unpleasant or complicated parts of it may be… like the proclamation says, gaining insight from our mistakes and successes will help us move forward.
The Jackson Free Press points out that, indeed, Bryant is himself one of these predecessors: He issued the same proclamation in 2012 and 2013. A number of other states have also named April as the time to remember and celebrate Confederate history.
Bryant's decree came soon before Mississippi state legislature failed to decide on a number of bills that would alter its state flag, meaning that the Confederate symbol isn't going anywhere. Anger of the prominence of the Confederate flag in some American states flared up after images of Dylann Roof, the white man who killed nine black churchgoers in a horrific attack in South Carolina, posing with the symbol emerged. Some, like Mississippi's Sons of Confederate Veterans, answered the call to remove the flag from American culture with renewed efforts to keep it in place.
There's something to be said for remembering Confederate history—it would probably be a good idea to spend more time thinking about the brutal history of slavery and black oppression, and how it contributes to racism and inequality today. After all, nearly one-fifth of those who support our GOP presidential frontrunner think slavery was a good idea.
But historical revisionists like the Son's of Confederate Veterans and those who don't like to even write the word "slavery" should not be in charge of setting that agenda. Please throw this garbage proclamation in the trash.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.