STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:
Mississippi currently has no state flag. The former flag was retired earlier this summer after nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. Mississippi was the only state left that still had the Confederate battle flag emblem. To find a new flag for the state, Mississippi asked people to submit designs. Nearly 3,000 submissions were turned in, and now a state commission will review the designs and pick one for voters to approve in November. Reuben Anderson is the chair of the commission to redesign the Mississippi state flag. He joins us now.
REUBEN ANDERSON: Welcome to you.
VANEK SMITH: So you are a lifelong Mississippian. You were the first Black judge appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. How does it feel to see this flag being retired?
ANDERSON: Well, I guess I would say I grew up in Mississippi in the '40s and '50s, and I've kind of been challenged by that flag most of my life, this flag has been a challenge to 40% of the people of Mississippi for a long time. It's been a thrill for me. I never thought it would have happened in my lifetime. This flag has not only been a hindrance for the state, particularly in economic development - people don't realize that when people look at locating and relocating and expanding businesses in Mississippi, the flag has played a major role. I think Mississippi will be looked at in a different light after November.
VANEK SMITH: So what did the old flag say? You said it was a challenge. You said it kind of drove business away. Like, what message was the old flag giving?
ANDERSON: It just was a complete sign that you were not welcome. There are so many people in Mississippi who see that flag as a reminder of how slavery was in Mississippi. I was telling our commission that I know a good friend of mine whose high school principal was a slave. So we're not talking about the very, very long ago history.
VANEK SMITH: Was there a moment when the flag came down for good - I'm wondering if you watched that moment and how that felt.
ANDERSON: I witnessed it. What I can say is that there hasn't been a lot of negativity around taking the flag down. In 2001, we had an election on whether or not to take the flag down, and we lost substantially. And it was a lot of negativity in the sense that people were hostile and mad about the effort to take the flag down. But this time around, it just seems like people are looking forward to what we'll have as a new flag and not what we are dealing with in the old flag.
VANEK SMITH: So you guys got a lot of submissions. Some are these very sophisticated, high-res graphics, some are in crayon. Are there any designs that stand out to you?
ANDERSON: Look like most of them are leaning towards state flower, which is the magnolia. But we got some beer cans and a lot of other football items, but overall it's coming along.
VANEK SMITH: Yes, I noticed a lot of magnolia designs, too. Is there anything in particular that you would like to see in the new state flag?
ANDERSON: No. I'm comfortable. When we took down that flag, that was a pleasing moment for me. So anything new is a thrill for me.
VANEK SMITH: Reuben Anderson is the chair of the commission to redesign the Mississippi state flag.
Judge Anderson, thank you so much for your time.
ANDERSON: Thank you.
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