HUTCHINSON: "It's the right thing to do." (File photo.) BRIAN CHILSON

Here’s a pleasant surprise: The AP reports that Governor Hutchinson today stated that he supports an effort by Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) to legally re-designate the symbolism of a star on the Arkansas state flag, which currently honors the Confederacy.

The legislature decreed in 1924 that a blue star above Arkansas’s name on the state flag “is to commemorate the Confederate States of America.” Blake’s bill would alter the law to declare that the star “commemorates the heritage and contribution of the Quapaw, Osage, and Caddo tribes and the other Native American nations who inhabited Arkansas before France or Spain exercised dominion over Arkansas.”

The bill failed in the GOP-controlled House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committee last week, falling overwhelming in what was nearly a party-line vote. Four Democrats and one Republican voted for the bill. The rest of the Republicans on the committee preferred to keep the star’s current designation, honoring those who led a treasonous rebellion against the United States of America so that they might continue unfettered the enslavement of black people. Eight Republicans voted against Blake’s bill; another seven made themselves scarce and didn’t vote (same as a no).

Blake could try again. If he does, he will now have a powerful ally, though whether that’s enough to change GOP minds in the Arkansas legislature, we shall see. (Update: Blake said later Monday that he hopes to bring the bill back up, and that he believes the governor’s backing could help his cause.)

Advertisement

“It’s the right thing to do,” Hutchinson told Andrew DeMillo of the AP today. “I don’t know that we need to recognize Arkansas in a state of rebellion. I think we’d be better off recognizing those nations, from the Indian tribes to others, that we’ve been under. … Whenever you see the hurt it brings to a significant part of our population, I don’t think it’s worth it. I think you ought to strive as a state to remove that hurt and this seems like a reasonable approach to that.”

Hutchinson had not previously taken a position on the bill. At a panel on faith and race at Robinson Center on Friday, Hutchinson obliquely acknowledged Blake’s push; Blake and Hutchinson then had a private conversation after the panel. The governor told reporter John Brummett that evening, “I think I need to have more conversations about [the flag designation].”

I’ve reached out to Blake for comment.