Clark ties flag vote to economic growth
By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
April 9, 2001
Local NAACP president Obie Clark doesn't particularly like the new state flag design facing voters next week, but anything would be better than the state's current symbol, he said.
Clark, president of the Meridian chapter of the NAACP, told The Meridian Star editorial board he's hoping polls are wrong about how the state votes on the controversial issue April 17. A survey conducted by Mississippi State University shows about two-thirds of Mississippians prefer the current flag over the proposed flag.
The state's current flag has been the subject of controversy because its canton corner contains a small Confederate Battle Flag, which African-Americans say is a racist symbol and a reminder of oppressive times.
Many Southern heritage groups, like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, claim the symbol honors their ancestors, many of whom died during the Civil War. The groups say the symbol was hijacked by white supremacist organizations and they don't support it being used as a tool of hate.
Clark said although he appreciates many Southern heritage groups denouncing the flag's usage as a racist symbol, it's too little too late.
With images of Mississippi's volatile 1960s civil rights movement still embedded in many Americans' minds, Clark said he feels a vote to adopt a new flag would make a lasting impression around the country.
With the release of Census 2000 statistics showing a change from a Caucasian majority to an African-American majority population in Meridian, Clark said he believes he knows the reason why.
Clark said he doesn't believe as many whites would have left the city if city schools were performing as well as county schools in standardized testing.
One way to solve declining population figures and spark growth in the city is with more quality jobs, which Clark said he and other African-American leaders have been waiting to see local and state leaders deliver. He said he's been particularly alarmed at the lack of high paying jobs Meridian and the state.
Clark said city and state leaders have been contributing to a national epidemic in recent years by giving away tax exempt status' to businesses who aren't putting high paying jobs back in the community.
Although Clark said he was pleased to hear Meridian was getting a new Wal-Mart Supercenter and a Lowe's, it's not long-term growth.
Clark said "politicians want us to believe these minimum wage jobs are a godsend and that's not true."
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.