Mississippi's State Motto Is Basically 'White Supremacy Forever,' Black Lawyer Tells Supreme Court

The Mississippi state flag, which incorporates the Confederate battle flag, hangs with other state flags in the subway system under the U.S. Capitol. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Mississippi sends the message that black Americans need to "toughen up" or "move out of the state," if they are offended by the Confederate flag, according to a legal brief filed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday.

In a legal brief to the High Court, Carlos Moore, an African-American judge in Mississippi, refuted the state's belief that its flag—which displays the Confederate emblem in its corner—does not translate into a discriminatory treatment of the state's 1 million black Americans.

"Mississippi adopted its flag at the same time it vigorously reasserted white control of the state, the flag was intended to be an official endorsement of white supremacy, and by continuing to fly it Mississippi broadcasts that message on a daily basis," Moore wrote. "It is the equivalent of the state adopting 'White Supremacy Forever' as its state motto."

The Mississippi state flag is the only official state banner that continues to include Confederate imagery.

The Mississippi State flag sports the Confederate battle cross, sparking a legal battle in the U.S. Supreme Court. BILL COLGIN/GETTY IMAGES

The legal argument dates back to 2016 when Moore sued to stop the state from flying the flag. Moore believes the flag represents state-sanctioned hate speech that violates the equal-protection rights of black citizens. He referred to the flag as a "Jim Crow banner" in his legal response.

Moore compared the Mississippi flag to the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court, which decided schools violated the Constitution by providing a message of inequality to the state of Kansas, creating a "feeling of inferiority…that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone."

Moore appealed two legal losses in Mississippi to the Supreme Court, which has not taken the case but asked for both sides to submit arguments—a possible first step toward a full argument. It would be the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the Confederate symbol if they choose to take up the case. Previous legal decisions have said Moore failed to prove the flag causes "identifiable legal injury."

The state argued to the Supreme Court on October 18 that while the Mississippi flag may be deeply offensive to black people, it is not a violation of civil rights. The lawyers said if the lawsuit is upheld, it creates a slippery slope where anyone could challenge any government action or monument by "simply alleging what cannot be disproved—namely, that he or she suffers denigration, stigma, or like form of discomfiture."

Moore's case rests on convincing the Supreme Court that lower courts made a "grievous error" in not recognizing the "racially hostile" and "demeaning" state messaging as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

The stakes are high, Moore wrote. "If Mississippi's conduct does not violate the Equal Protection Clause, then it is undeniable that state and local governments are indeed free to officially demean and marginalize their black citizens, LGBT citizens, Hispanic citizens, Middle Eastern citizens, Asian citizens or any group which finds itself in a disfavored minority."