Racist Mississippi


cjones07042020

It’s time for another racism test, kids. If you’re upset about the Confederate flag being removed from the state flag of Mississippi…and you don’t live in Mississippi, then you’re probably a racist. In fact, if you’re upset and you actually live in Mississippi, yup. You’re still a racist. Also, if you’re still supporting Donald Trump, you’re a racist.

After 126 years of being on the state flag, Mississippi is finally removing the Confederate emblem. Yesterday, the governor signed a bill making it official.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter, or in the wave of it, Confederate emblems are coming down. Lady Antebellum is now “Lady A.” The Dixie Chicks are now just “The Chicks.” Aunt Jemima is saying good-bye with Uncle Ben and Mrs. Butterworth soon to follow. Confederate statues are being removed officially or by the brute force of protesters. NASCAR has removed the hate flag from its venues, but not all the nooses apparently. Soon, the only thing left will be a hate president and a few of his Senators.

There is a lot that’s great about Mississippi. It’s where I started my career and sharpened my teeth in this business. I had the best teachers in Mississippi and I can’t think of a better place for a journalist to start their career. I worked for a weekly newspaper for five years, a daily for eight months (they fired me), and I freelanced several years for the Mississippi Business Journal while self-syndicating to over 40 papers in the state. I worked and lived in the state for seven years. I still have great friends there. My son was born there. In fact, I’ll be back there for a few days next month…even after publishing this cartoon.

If you don’t live in Mississippi, then let me explain this to you: It’s kinda like the biggest small town in the world. And in journalism circles, everyone knows everyone. If you’re in the journalism business, you will not impress another journalist by telling him or her that you had the governor in your office last week because he’s been in their office too. One governor was almost my personal lawyer before he ran for the top job. I once sat on the benches of a little league game with a different governor who, like me, had a newborn at home and we showed each other pics of our babies. Back in the 90s, it was not uncommon for me to run into the state’s attorney general (who was once in my office going through a stack of cartoons looking for himself) and for him to call me by my first name. How small of a town is it? People in the state know who their agriculture commissioner is. Here in Virginia, most people don’t even know we have a black lieutenant governor (he’s the one who actually has a black face).

It’s not that people in Mississippi are smarter than people in Virginia. God no. It’s just that it’s more close-knit. Plus, when the agriculture commissioner is in office for two decades, at some point you learn his name. And there are fish fries. You meet every politician in the state at fish fries. I can’t tell you how many times I met former Senator Trent Lott, mostly at fish fries. It got to the point that when I was told to cover something featuring Lott, my response was usually, “again?”. Oddly enough, in my seven years in the state, I never did meet Thad Cochran.

I mentioned the training I received in Mississippi. Two lessons that have stuck with me over the years are: There is almost never too close with a camera and you rarely need “that.” Also, my publisher once told me he wanted to see more irony in my work and I scoffed because I was sure there was plenty of irony in my work. Then I went to my office, had to step around a governor, and looked up the definition of “irony” just to be sure.

But, there is amazing talent in the state. It gave us William Faulkner, Willie Morris, Eudora Welty, and Marshall Ramsey (though he’s actually from Georgia…another state that had the hate emblem on their flag). Mississippi gave us Elvis. It gave us Oprah.

But I bet when you think of Mississippi, the first thing isn’t Faulkner, plantations, antebellum crap, cotton, Oprah, or even “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?”. I bet the first thing you think of is racism.

Mississippi arguably has the most hateful past when it comes to racism. Even as recent as 2018, while appointed Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith was running for her seat, she joked about public lynchings. On the day Trump visited to help her campaign against a black guy, nooses were hung on the grounds of the state capitol. As Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said of racist Strom Thurmond at his 100th racist birthday party, “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.” I don’t think he meant we wouldn’t have had “all these problems” because Thurmond was a great race uniter.

And about those lynchings in the south, between 1882 and 1968, there were 539 documented lynchings in Mississippi which were even more than Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida, all states with over 200 lynchings each. And who were they lynching? It wasn’t white people. So when it’s 2018 and a candidate for the United States Senate is still making lynching jokes, your state is racist.

Before you argue the state isn’t racist, it’s 2020 and the Confederate emblem is just now being removed from the official flag of a state where 38 percent of the population is black.

Also, another little test for you: If you don’t believe the Confederate flag is racist, you’re a racist.

It’s great the hate emblem is being removed. Georgia removed it. South Carolina removed it off the grounds of their state capitol after a brutal murder in a black church in 2015. But, the Confederacy is still represented in state flags. Georgia’s flag still has 13 stars and is modeled after the actual Confederate flag (it’s like when David Duke stopped wearing Klan robes and started wearing suits). Alabama’s and Florida’s flags were influenced by the hate flag. The Arkansas flag has four stars that represent the nations the state belonged to, Spain, France, the U.S., and the Confederacy…with the Confederacy’s star being on top.

There’s still a lot of hate, not just in the south but in this nation. Removing these symbols and emblems are only the first steps. The biggest thing we have to change are minds. When can we do that? After we stop teaching our kids to hate. Just yesterday, here in my little liberal city in Virginia, I heard a guy drop multiple N-bombs while talking about Black Lives Matter and his support for Donald Trump. Obviously, he was from Stafford County.

Like Donald Trump, Mississippi is synonymous with hate. Donald Trump’s not going to change his name because he’d still be racist. Mississippi won’t change its name either, but it can eventually cease to be synonymous with racism. But it has a LOT of work to do. That will be proven in November when they return Cindy Hyde-Smith to the Senate and go red for Donald Trump.

Maybe someday when you think of Mississippi, the first thing that comes to your mind won’t be hate.

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3 comments

  1. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    This happened … “In the wake of Black Lives Matter, or in the wave of it, Confederate emblems are coming down. Lady Antebellum is now “Lady A.” The Dixie Chicks are now just “The Chicks.” Aunt Jemima is saying good-bye with Uncle Ben and Mrs. Butterworth soon to follow. Confederate statues are being removed officially or by the brute force of protesters. NASCAR has removed the hate flag from its venues, but not all the nooses apparently. Soon, the only thing left will be a hate president and a few of his Senators.”

    Liked by 1 person

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