Commentary: Oppression surging above the baseline

By Christopher Young,

Contributing Writer,

In its simplest form, oppression is a mechanism of keeping certain people down. People in a position of power foisting their will on others, subjugating them, dominating and controlling. One definition includes: the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.

Stripping away resources is a longstanding element of oppression. And while Mississippi may not have written the original playbook on racial oppression, it lives and breathes here in the broad light of day, day-in and day-out. The methods change over time, but never the goals.

Is there anything more fundamental to the well-being of residents than clean safe water? A city or municipality’s water and sewer system is a major contributor to their economy. indicates that “every $1 invested in water and sanitation provides a $4 economic return from lower health costs, more productivity and fewer premature deaths.”

Now in Jackson, after decades of financial neglect by the State of Mississippi, codified in a lawsuit against the state following our most recent water emergencies, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency said unequivocally, “You can’t do this to the residents of Jackson, you can’t neglect people like this.”

The EPA appointed a third-party administrator, Ted Henifin, a consummate professional with 40 years’ experience with a major water/sewer system in southeast Virginia, and he has promised the people to not leave Jackson until this tragedy is fixed.

Funding has been provided by the U.S. Congress, effectively side-stepping the state, and what is the response at the Mississippi Capitol? Predictably, it’s more of the same oppression, but now they are attempting to take control of Jackson’s water/sewer system. The title of Senate Bill 2889 is AN ACT TO CREATE THE MISSISSIPPI CAPITOL REGION UTILITY ACT; TO ENSURE ACCESS TO SAFE, CLEAN AND RELIABLE WATER FOR THE CITIZENS OF CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES. The Bill is authored by State Senator David Parker, per 

Parker is a white Christian republican optometrist, in office since 2012, representing Desoto County, taking it upon himself, or as a proxy for others, to strip the residents of Jackson of its own water/sewer system. 

It never ends, and sometimes the oppression surges above the normal baseline. And it’s not just the water system. Here is an October 26, 2022 headline in The Northside Sun newspaper – “Still Waiting: No Ruling Yet On State’s Attempt To Take Control Of Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.” Sound familiar? Efforts to take control from Jackson never cease, and sometimes they flare mightily. 

Another current example, on January 20, 2023, The Clarion Ledger reported on the activities of State Representative John Thomas “Trey” Lamar, another white Christian republican, an attorney this time, in office since 2012, representing Senatobia County. Lamar has authored HB1020 to “create a new court system within Jackson’s Capitol Complex Improvement District, taking authority over cases in that part of the city away from local elected officials and would put the power to appoint judges solely in the hands of the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and to appoint prosecutors solely in the hands of the attorney general.”

Now that we have this grand and white-centric Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID), these folks don’t want Hinds County judges deciding things. They want to have their own de facto district attorney and have their own judges appointed, rather than elected; control-sucking power from Jackson and Hinds County.

When some others are shy on the topic, The Mississippi Free Press is not. Their comprehensive article on January 27, 2023 comes under the headline: White Mississippi Officials Would Appoint Courts, Bypassing Black Jackson Judges Under Bill. The full article can be read at

We are blessed with a multitude of organizations centered on justice in Mississippi. We must remember they don’t exist by accident, but because the oppression and discrimination never cease. Nor is Mississippi last in everything by accident – the rankings are well earned, in large part due to the manner in which black Mississippians are treated.

We have news organizations that are ready and willing to confront the injustice through telling the broader story and reminding viewers and readers of abhorrent behavior through the years. We have other news organizations that don’t tell the complete story, and even speak in some sort of code through highly polished publishers that would have you believe that all is well.

You have to ask yourself why these white Christian republicans are so intent on controlling everything. Why are they so intent on taking over basic resources that are so fundamental to city or county economics? If they are not satisfied with how something is operating, is the only option a take-over? How about voicing concern fairly and respectfully? How about asking if they need help? Isn’t that what Christians do? Isn’t that what people with a moral compass do? How many Legislative Prayer Breakfasts will be attended this year, only to say amen and then depart the breakfast to undertake deeds to oppress, discriminate and divide?

These oppressors remind us that the oath they take upon entering office is quickly forgotten. Do the people of DeSoto and Senatobia counties – in northern Mississippi, drink Jackson water or participate in CCID activities? These elected officials are proxies for others intent on usurping the power of the majority black citizens of the City of Jackson and Hinds County. They cannot abide black leadership. 

White people ran away from Jackson for several decades, but now they are applying a full-court press to carve out their own new Capital City in the state that they view as theirs. Ole fashioned oppression, surging above the baseline.

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