By Christopher Young,
When we see and feel the harsh treatment of the City of Jackson by the Governor and most republican state legislators we are seeing and feeling these elected officials actually harm the whole state, too. Mississippi can ill afford to be harmed further than it already is, but in their zealousness to stomp down black leadership, that is exactly what they do.
A recent Brookings Institution Report highlights both the grave costs of ineffective state and local relationships, but also the steep economic and social benefits in store when collaboration does occur. The report can be accessed at https://www.brookings.edu/essay/why-state-and-local-relationships-matter-to-national-prosperity and begins with us, our Jackson water crisis.
The report reads, “The next month (that would have been March 2021), backed by the city council, Mayor Lumumba requested $47 million in state and federal funding from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves to fix the city’s water treatment facilities. But Jackson received just $4.6 million out of the $356 million being doled out during that round of statewide capital projects – a mere 1.3% for a capital city comprising 5.2% of the state’s population and anchoring a metro area that contributes 24% of the state’s economic output.”
It goes on to say, “Even as the state’s business community attempted to facilitate support for solutions, by the end of 2022, poor and unsafe water service was still the norm in Jackson. Relations between the state and city stalled, and the federal government intervened with a series of actions, including approving $600 million to directly address the water crisis.”
At Mayor Lumumba’s request, President Biden intervened with the Environmental Protection Agency and many others, because they see clearly the states’ decades long neglect for Jackson’s infrastructure needs – their disdain for Jackson, specifically Jackson’s black leadership. The report indicates this is “part of a broader trend which threatens the transformative use of billions in federal infrastructure funds and other investments flowing to states and local communities…most acute in the Midwest and South, where the majority of the nation’s African American and Latino or Hispanic population live, and where solutions to economic transitions and paths to upward mobility are most needed.”
In 2020, the Bureau of Economic Analysis Statistics reported that Mississippi is ranked #46 in the nation in percent of Gross Domestic Product derived from its metro areas, at 52.8%. There are two states in the top ten that have republican controlled legislatures: Arizona at #10 with 94.5%, and Florida at #8 with 97.1% of its GDP generated by its metro areas. Eight out of the top ten states generating the highest GDP from their metro areas are under democratic control. As always, Mississippi under-performs. When the Governor, the rest of the trio, and our republican controlled legislature hurt the City of Jackson, their actions hurt the whole state.
We know change is possible, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of when the fiercest of enemies can learn to work together and sometimes even become friends. We’ve all heard the stories about cops and gangbangers who end up truly getting to know each other, and their perceptions change, and bonds are formed. And we remember Hall of Famer Jim Brown, now 84, who played a major role in the truce between Crips and Bloods. President Jimmy Carter negotiated the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. In times of war, it is not uncommon for enemies to form bonds for their mutual benefit.
There are so many examples of enemies eventually coming together and we need that desperately to form a respectful collaboration between our state and our City of Jackson. A collaboration that will be economically beneficial to both. A collaboration that weaves resources together, making the fabric of the solution stronger. But how can we achieve it in our deep red state laden with conservative legislators, and a state with close to 40% African American population that is unceasingly being hurt by their lack of regard – now that’s the trillion-dollar question.
Any budging by the governor or the mayor that may have occurred in the past has surely been erased by more recent waves of mutual animosity. But how important is it? How important is it to change course, to begin anew? Everybody claims to love Jesus so much, well what would Jesus do? When the federal government bypasses the state altogether with funding for infrastructure they are not doing that by accident. They are sending an unmistakable message that they care about Jackson and all her people because they are aware that the State of Mississippi does not.
If your neighbor has their car stuck in a ditch, no one will even think about seizing their car -you would offer to help. So, let’s do that. Let’s find a way to bury these hatchets for our mutual benefit – for the benefit of our human condition, and for our mutual economic prosperity. My suggestion is simple, and God willing, could lead to change. We must call on the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 11:6) – “and a little child shall lead them.”
Our Governor Reeves would invite the Lumumba family to join the Reeves family at the mansion for a Sunday dinner. Our mayor digs deep, then accepts the invitation. The families meet with handshakes of acknowledgement, not warmth. These men have at the least four things in common: they both are fathers, they both have beautiful families, they both love the Lord, and they are mutually outnumbered because – they are both girl dads. A wonderful dinner is had with all the conversation surely being safely centered on the five daughters.
When it’s time to say goodnight, mutual pleasantries are exchanged, and then it happens – the youngest Lumumba daughter taps on the Governor’s knee and asks if she can have a hug. The Governor goes to one knee and hugs the little five-year-old, who then asks him if he can come to her house the next time. After a sleepless night for both, the phone rings in City Hall and the mayor here’s the words – “today is a new day, I’d like to start working with you so that we can all benefit.”
And the Governor hears the words, “Yes, today is a new day, just name the place and time and I’ll be there.”
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