Governor Reeves’ decision to have the state of Mississippi celebrate the confederacy is actually on its third consecutive year. After the proclamation was made in 2021, Reeves went on Fox News to deny the existence of system racism.
In a decision both shocking and utterly predictable, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves has designated April as Confederate Heritage Month.
The legacy of the Confederacy is one of white supremacy, chattel slavery, militarism, and rebellion against the United States government. The Confederacy lost decisively on the battlefield against the Union, but descendants of the Confederates spent the next few generations rewriting history about the seismic event. The result was the creation of the Lost Cause mythology, which effectively is an argument that the Confederacy was honorable, that they were wronged by the Union, and that the war was about things like states’ rights and not slavery. The myths were spread by groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
From the 1890s to the 1950s, these groups were highly successful in their efforts to build a litany of Confederate monuments across the country. These monuments were often built as a response to perceived Black political challenges–during Reconstruction, and then again during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. So it should be no surprise then, that when white supremacy is perceived to be under threat, its proponents take both material and symbolic action. For example, the anti-Critical Race Theory movement is better understood as part of a backlash against increasing demographic change, and to the George Floyd protests of 2020. The same reasoning is behind Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves’ decision to name April Confederate Heritage Month.
Governor Reeves’ decision to have the state of Mississippi celebrate the Confederacy, in its third consecutive year of his administration, continues a three-decade tradition for the state’s governors. After the proclamation was made in 2021, Reeves went on Fox News to deny the existence of system racism.
To add insult to injury in 2022, Reeves also declared April Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, with the proclamation defining genocide as: “the systematic destruction of all or a significant part of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group by destroying a group’s political and social institutions, culture, language, national feelings, religion, and economic existence, and destroying the personal security, liberty, health, dignity and lives of individuals belonging to the group.”
Governor Reeves was unable to see how this definition of genocide encompasses the institution of chattel slavery that the Confederates fought to protect and perpetuate. Celebrating the Confederacy is a celebration of those wicked and immoral values, a promotion of the subjugation of Black Americans and Native Americans.
The proclamation of a Confederate Heritage Month in Mississippi comes at a time where more Americans than ever are questioning white supremacy as a social system and challenging the status quo in arenas from economics to law enforcement. This can be viewed as a version of white backlash to social groups taking on the established narrative on race and US history in the south. As the country continues to diversify, politicians such as Governor Reeves are likely to take up symbolic measures honoring the Confederacy as part of their efforts to combat cultural change.