Today Mississippi stands at the crossroads of decency and humanity as the states voters decide whether to keep the "stars and bars" as part of the state's flag. A year ago, Presidential hopefuls George Bush and Al Gore had a chance to make history in the South Carolina primaries by taking a strong stand against racism and hatred in the much publicized issue regarding the state's Stars and Bars flag, instead-they played it safe. It was a chance for America's "leaders" to stand and say "hatred will not be tolerated," but when the opportunity presented itself-they ran for the general cover of political platitudes. What a moment it could have been. A history making event, but no one had a taste for history. No one wanted to rock the boat. Instead, the ship of state sailed on leaving the port of slave ships untouched. Again, there is an aroma of history hanging in the air and Mississippi has a chance to fill its lung with its refreshing essence, but the chances for even a sniff look dim. That is sad. Even sadder is the fact that Black America expects it because when it comes to reality, blacks know that political expediency overrides moral fiber. The "Stars and Bars" is a reminder of the hatred, racism and brutality associated with slavery. It is a divider of people and an agitator of hatred. It adds insult to injury by provoking division under the false pretenses of tribute to a "southern tradition". The South, essentially, was a traitor to the United States. Losers do not write history. The Confederate flag is a perverse reminder of a rift that set kin against kin and killed many of this country's young. For people of color, it is the same as the skull and crossbones of a ship carrying slaves. It is a symbol that still rubs salt into unhealed wounds, honoring a peculiar institution instigated in infamy and inhumane existence. For people of color, it is a constant eyesore. It is the Swastika of the South. It is a horrific reminder that Nazi institutions thrived in this country but under another name-slavery. Displaying the flag of the Confederacy will not let these feelings dissipate. The rebel flag is a grim reminder of man's inhumanity to man. Like the Jewish Holocaust, the mark of slavery in the United States is indelible and cannot and should not be washed away, but should serve as a reminder of what can happen when economics become the arbiters of social behavior and sculptors of expedient theological thinking. Many blacks literally despise "the South" and the southern mode of thinking. Blacks still remember being at risk simply because they are black. Many were just kids when white racists lynched Emmitt Till in the 1950's but it is just like yesterday when the Stars and Bars splits the air. The flag of the confederacy is a slap in the face to all Black Americans. It is a symbol that brings raging memories back to both black and white. In the collective mind of Black America, the "Stars and Bars" cannot be divorced from slavery and white supremacy. Rebel flags, which often decorate cars, homes and state office buildings in these venues, serve only to provoke anger. Blacks are not ready to forgive and forget or release those of ignorance who continue to live in a "confederate" state of mind, such as white supremacists and the general purveyors of hatred or separatism based on skin color, or, those who refuse to see the confederate flag for what it is-America's Swastika-a symbol of shame and sedition. Once again politicians demonstrated that when it comes to making a tough and controversial decision, they have no honor, no strength and certainly no courage when it comes to doing the right thing for an issue that is clear as the manacles, stripes and lynchings that still taint the history of that "peculiar institution" known as slavery. The Confederate flag, the Stars and Bars, is an insult to every person of color living in the United States. It is a defiant divider and a clear symbol of hatred to people of color. Politicians missed a chance to heal old wounds and bring the country into the 21st century, but Mississippi has a chance to change some of that even though I suspect that it has no taste for history either, other than the history of oppression that is so tied to that abomination called the "confederate battle flag." More bluntly, the South lost the war and in the process became traitors. In normal circumstances, losers do not dictate concessions and make no doubt about it-they were losers by every definition of war. None of the Southern States had the "Stars and Bars" as part of their state flags until well after the Civil War. Displaying the Stars and Bars was and is an "unabashed" thumbing of the nose at the North who let it stand. That flag is the same of the Nazi swastika, the skull and cross bones or the pointed hood of the Ku Klux Klan. It is a symbol of hatred and inhumanity and to let it stand is not only despicable, but also indicative of the hatred that still exists in this country. I cannot put all of the blame on the South. This entire country must shoulder some of that burden. America can't say it didn't know the Stars and Bars was an insult to people of color and its silence indicates-it doesn't care.