When lawmakers in Mississippi voted to remove and replace the state’s flag which features the cross of the Confederate battle flag, K.J. Wright was relieved.
The Seattle Seahawks linebacker called Mississippi’s decision to surrender the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag a “step in the right direction.”
“My first reaction was, ‘Finally,” Wright said in an interview with Ben Arthur of Seattle PI. “'Thank you for realizing what that flag means to Black people, what that flag means to people like myself, what it stood for.’ I personally thought everybody understood the context behind it, what the flag represented. It represented hatred, it represented supremacy, it represented pro-Slavery. That’s how I interpreted it. And it made a lot of people uncomfortable.”
Mississippi has a 38 percent Black population, yet it took lawmakers more than a century to ditch the Confederate battle flag sympbol after white supremacist legislators adopted the design following the South’s lost in the Civil War.
It’s a step to making everything better for everyone... My Grandma’s grandma was a slave, and growing up, you hear those stories... My grandma, she went through segregation. She went through the Civil Rights Movement. That was some serious stuff... This stuff isn’t brand new. Like, this stuff just recently happened... So to see simple steps made in the right direction is really big for the state of Mississippi.
Whatever comes out [of this], I’m going to be proud to say I’m from Mississippi. Because right now, it’s kind of been tough. People ask, ‘Where you from?’ And I say, ‘Mississippi.’ And they be like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go there.’ And it shouldn’t be like that. It shouldn’t be that sad. It shouldn’t be that pitiful. So, we’re definitely headed in the right direction as a state. -- K.J. Wright
For Wright, the divisive flag is used as a symbol of white supremacy, the Jim Crow South and racism and violence that Black Americans still face.
Wright recalls seeing the flag while growing up in Olive Branch, Miss., and playing at Mississippi State. It would fly in front of homes or fly on the back of pickup trucks.
"It’s extremely uncomfortable and extremely sad that people would represent that because you know what [the Confederate symbol] means,” Wright explained. “There’s no getting around it. There’s absolutely no getting around it. You’d see Klan members with their white hoodies on waving that flag. You saw the Confederate soldiers had that when they were fighting the Union soldiers for slavery. It’s pretty blatant, and there’s no getting around it. So, it was extremely uncomfortable as a black man [being around that]. When you see that, you definitely steer clear of those people."
Now that Mississippi has moved to remove the controversial flag, hopefully Wright can once again call his home state a place he is “proud” of.