By Christopher Young,
Nearly two years a resident of Mississippi now, it no longer shocks me when native white Mississippians try to explain the racism in the state. One line is more consistent than all the others combined, “Well, it’s complicated in the South.” Is it really? Their explanation sure seems like an effort to put lipstick on the proverbial pig.
Today especially with, but not limited to, House Bill 1020, no explanation is needed – a blind person could see the sizzling truth. Not only is there no interest in atonement for ongoing smoldering deeds so obvious to the righteous, but the supermajority of our white Christian Republican legislators are going hog-wild – resurrecting the blatant oppression of Jim Crow.
These folks elected by the voters in their districts and across the state, will not stand for black leadership. The City of Jackson has been either slighted or starved of infrastructure resources from the state for decades.
Only last September we were reminded by The Clarion Ledger of our governor speaking with conservative radio personality Paul Gallo in June 2011 about the State Bond Commission, of which Reeves was a member when he was state treasurer, not voting on water and sewer infrastructure bond requests by the City of Jackson. “I’ve never voted against that because it’s never gotten to the Bond Commission. We are talking to the City of Jackson,” Reeves said. “If we are not comfortable, we never bring it up for a vote.” A great summary of Reeves character and about how he feels about black leadership in our Black City.
Ignoring the Mississippi State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, House Bill 1020 is just a takeover, plain and simple. And it’s not just a takeover, but a takeover of the Black City of Jackson by white Christian Republican legislators voting in lockstep.
Recently having a chance to talk to a handful of them, I got it straight from the horse’s mouth. None of the five live anywhere near Jackson. Two of the five conceded they didn’t read the bill before voting for it, while two others just grinned when I asked. Four of the five stated what must be the newly distributed talking points – “this is my capital too.” When I indicated that since you say it’s your capital too, where were you during the last two years at the height of the water crisis in Jackson, the faces became even more stonelike. This was at a music venue and spirits were flowing so I won’t mention names, but their names were all in the Yeas column when the Bill passed 76-38 on February 7, 2023. Not a single Republican voted against the takeover. Five Democrats joined them, per https://legiscan.com/MS/rollcall/HB1020/id/1245192, Cedric Burnett (D-09), Angela Cockerham(D-96), Michael Evans (D-45), Johnathan Lancaster (D-22), and Shanda Yates (D-64).
“I know of no other community in this State where a legislature would file and approve bills when they have not talked to the local elected officials about what they think of the deal. But unfortunately, Jim Crow and a lot of other bad actors appear every now and then. I now have friends calling me saying – I thought things had changed, you know you changed your flag, you’re doing better with your school systems, but when I read what’s happening to Jackson it looks like you’re going in the opposite direction – and I can’t really tell them we are not, because I agree it’s the wrong direction,” per U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-2) during a recent Mississippi Public Broadcasting interview.
In a Democracy Docket article on February 15, 2023, the subheadings provide good summary, https://www.democracydocket.com/analysis/mississippi-continues-to-deny-black-americans-political-power. 1) Mississippi Republicans want to create a Court that is unaccountable to Black voters, 2) H.B. 1020 is just the latest in a long line of measures designed to reduce Black political power, 3) The drama in the Magnolia State underscores the fight for equal representation is far from over.
The National Newspaper Publishers Associations (NNPA), otherwise known as The Black Press, aired a Let It Be Known Special Report featuring Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba February 17, 2023. It can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIsHmgpov14. Host Stacy Brown said to Lumumba that HB1020 looks like they are coming for your city with guns a blazing and it has Jim Crow written all over it. Lumumba responded, “Well, it is a concerted effort to attack Black leadership and it is part and parcel to a lot of bills over successive years and residents are infuriated…I’m putting everyone on notice that this is not going to go quietly, and we will not allow such a draconian bill to be imposed on our City. Jackson, by its demographics is considered the Blackest City in the nation and this proposed district composes the most densely population white portion of the city – approximately 86% of the white population is encompassed within this proposed district.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi tweeted February 18, 2003, HB 1020 increases policing, strips voting and political power away from the majority Black citizens of Jackson and diverts tax dollars away from communities in need. This bill is a direct threat to the freedom of the Capital City and a parallel to Jim Crow era political schemes.
Just taking in the potential impact of HB1020 (create new court, expand CCID, expand Capitol Police jurisdiction) which has been opposed unanimously by Jackson City Council, Hinds County Board of Supervisors, sixteen judges that currently preside in Hinds County Courts, and numerous others, is hard enough – but it doesn’t stop there. HB1168 usurps the autonomy of Jackson to use it’s 1% sales tax revenues as it sees fit. SB2889 directly takes over Jackson’s water/sewer system and turns it over to appointees. SB2343 further expands Capitol Police jurisdiction to the entire boundaries of the City of Jackson, and HB1094 fines Jackson $1 million for any instance deemed by MDEQ of improper disposal of wastewater. This bill clearly targeting Jackson’s broken water system has since been amended to include all municipalities.
Nearly sixty years ago, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and while every word is an appeal to the conscience of our nation, a short excerpt bears repeating today… “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” And just two sentences later… “I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice…I have a dream today.”
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