Bills would remove state flag, separate MLK and Robert E. Lee holiday

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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – The outside of schools, courthouses, and other government buildings could change, if one state lawmaker gets his way.

The man behind two controversial proposals said he’s trying to move Mississippi in the right direction, but plenty of people disagree.

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“The confederate emblem inside our state flag is a real issue,” said Democratic State Representative Kabir Karriem.

He believes the “stars and bars” don’t belong with the “stars and stripes.”

“The flag always symbolizes some of the worst of Mississippi,” said Karriem.

He introduced a bill that would prohibit the display of the flag at or on any building or other property owned or leased by the state until the design is changed, and the confederate battle flag is removed.

He also wants to separate MLK Day and the Robert E. Lee holiday.

“It is trying to bring some closure to something that 48 other states have done, and Mississippi is still lagging behind,” said Karriem.

Some people said both proposals are problematic.

“It ain’t like race or nothing like that, it’s our history. We need to leave the flags the way they are,” Victoria Robertson.

And she wants to leave the Robert E Lee holiday alone, too.

“He’s just as important as Martin Luther King,” Robertson said.

“Leave it the same. I don’t see where it’s hurting anybody. Don’t hurt me. Martin Luther King doesn’t hurt me, he was a great man, but so was Robert E. Lee,” said Sarah Shurden.

But others aren’t so sure.

“I have a daughter that’s biracial, as young as she is that symbol still carries negative connotations, and yet for another group of people its a sense of pride,” said Shawn Evans.

WCBI spoke just as many black Mississippians about these bills, and nearly all of them agree with the representative, but none of them wanted to be a part of this story or go on camera.

Both bills are still in committee.

Karriem said he hopes people contact their representatives to make their voices heard.

Alabama is the only other state celebrating Robert E Lee and MLK on the same day.

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