Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It is Mississippi

My mom is from Mississippi.

She spent her early childhood in Liberty, Miss. before moving to Louisiana, and she still owns property near there. I've visited the state many, many times, and I've typically had a pleasant experience. I've eaten at restaurants, shopped at malls and generally behaved like a normal citizen.

But, it's still Mississippi.

When we used to drive to my grandfather's house, my mom would point out this old wooden building where farmers used to bring their cotton to get it weighed. In hushed tones, she would tell us about the black man who had been shot there in cold blood because he challenged a white man. As a child, it shocked me that somebody could be killed for standing up for themselves, and I never rode past that building again without thinking about the cost of independence.

That's Mississippi.

I bring this up because of Obama's fairly decisive victory Tuesday night in Mississippi. He crushed Hillary by more than 20 points, and it should have been a time for celebration in my household because his campaign has easily rebounded from the debacle that was Texas and Ohio. But, me and the missus were not celebrating.

Any Obama supporter who watched cable news knows why we weren't celebrating. The theme throughout the night wasn't Obama regaining his momentum, the story was the fact that 90 percent of black Democrats voted for Obama and 70 percent of white Democrats opposed him. That theme carried over to newspapers on Wednesday. The story was that nearly 70 percent of the people who voted for Hillary said they do not want Obama anywhere near her campaign in any capacity. The story was the racial divide among voters.

But, it was in Mississippi.

Look, I know residents of the Delta State bristle at the notion that they have some sort of stranglehold on racism, and I understand that sentiment. After all, Obama only carried 25 percent of the white vote in Tennessee and Alabama in those elections and nobody was calling those voters racist bigots. So I respect the fact people in Mississippi don't like being labeled as such.

But, dammit, it is Mississippi.

That state has a special place in black folks' hearts. We know that it's been bad down there for a long time. For a long time, a black man's life was worth less than a good horse's life in Mississippi. And while the state still has a substantial black population, there are probably more northern black refugees from Mississippi than any other state.

So, to be honest, I wasn't particularly disturbed by the racial divide among voters in Mississippi. I would have been a fool to expect something different. I was more disappointed in the announcers who jumped on the doom and gloom bandwagon when discussing Obama's chances to win the nomination. It was aggravating to have to listen to the tone media types used to discuss the "little problem" in the South.

After all, a little research would have shown media types that a racial divide among voters is common anywhere there is a sizable black population. White folks tend to use their votes to actively oppose black candidates because it's a very effective way to keep a sizable minority under control. It's been that way for years, and it doesn't just happen in the South.

But, that line of reasoning would have required an in-depth look at the power dynamics in this country, and how that relates to the difficulties black folks face when attempting to make economic and educational progress in America. That would have touched on some systemic problems that can't be confined just to the South. But, those types of discussions don't happen on cable news.

Especially not about Mississippi.

(Footnote: A friend of mine read this post and pointed out that Malcolm X had an awesome quote about race relations as it relates to Mississippi. Brother Malcolm once said "Mississippi is anywhere between Canada and Mexico." Real talk. And here's something that buttresses my point about larger African American populations and the entire nation. Link here.)

4 comments:

WNG said...

The Family G avoids the state. Papa G dealt with some shit on the Freedom Rides that he doesn't really talk about.
I went to college in NM and we always drove the northern route (from our home in SC) to avoid being pulled over in the middle of the night in AL or MS. That was '97-'00.
Sad.

Timi said...

I was saying this to one of my co-workers.

My very white and clueless co-worker says, "I can't believe that people are so divided on race in this election. I mean, like, all the white people voted for Hillary in Mississippi..."

I said, "DUH!! It's Mississippi! What the hell did you expect? I can't believe you're that naive."

Wow...it's MISSISSIPPI

Big Man said...

WNG

I'm assuming NM means New Mexico, so that's a pretty nice detour to avoid two states. But, South Carolina ain't nothing nice either. I've never had in personal problems in Mississippi, but all my folks have stories of how things used to be.

WNG said...

It does, indeed, mean New Mexico. I don't know how much of it was overprotective Papa G and how much of it was the memories of gunfire and police stations. He wouldn't drive through the 'deep South' with me after dark and wouldn't let me do it either.
On the SC tip, yeah it's bad, but it's devil you know kind of thing, I think.

Raving Black Lunatic