If I really wanted to answer that question, I would say “critical scale.” Critical scale is achieved when there are enough people who want the change, and are willing to do what it takes to achieve it. In what is a small, but highly significant first step, yesterday the Mississippi state legislature voted to remove the confederate image from the state flag and design a new flag. Given that the majority of the Senate (69%) and House (61%) are Republicans and white, that is pretty significant indeed. Democrats make up 31% of the senate and 88% of them are black. Democrats are more prevalent in the House, with 36%, and 81% of them are black. There is also a larger number of women in the House than in the Senate–not surprising of course that the majority in both branches of the legislature are male.
Saturday was the vote to suspend the rules in order to make a decision about removing the confederate symbol from the state flag. It passed both House and Senate, and the actual vote to take down the current flag with the confederate symbol prominently displayed was Sunday afternoon. The vote was 91-23 in the House in support of removing the flag, and 37-14 in the Senate.
Much of the support was based on the timing, economic decisions, athletic recruitment, business and tourism and in at least some of the rationale, because it is the right thing to do. While the confederacy and its subsequent symbols (battle flag, monuments erected over 30 years later following the war) were representative of the southern rebellion against the Union in order to maintain slavery, they were during the horrendous atrocities of the Jim Crow era about maintaining and glorifying white supremacy. There are more than plenty of speeches and articles in historic newspapers to disprove that it was about anything other than white supremacy. (See for example, Making Place, Making Race: Performances of Whiteness in the Jim Crow South, Annals of the Associate of American Geographers, 93(3), 2003, and Mr. Scott Makes Splendid Speech, Vicksburg Herald, May 11, 1906).
It was gratifying to have the senator who represents my district respond to my email from the floor, stating she would vote yes, and to have her subsequently contact me afterwards to say it was good to tell me the vote to take it down was successful and thank me for contacting her. It marks the first time in 17 years of being a registered voter in Mississippi where one of my representatives (all have been Republicans for whom I have not voted) has responded positively to my many contacts, voted in concert with my position, and not made some pablum excuse for why he had to vote his conscience and explain why I was wrong. I even reached the point where I would follow up my request for action (always carefully researched and supported with facts) with a statement about “don’t send me another standard response about what you believe; answer the question I have asked.” They never did.
PBS has a documentary coming out tonight on the increasing power of women of color in politics: And she could be next. Visit the link to learn how to watch live streaming. Turn the tide; vote women. We get things done that are good for people.