Ghost of Mississippi: The Hyde-Smith, Espy race


Above photo caption.  Phil Carlos Wilson took this photo of Claudia Bivins wearing the flag.  "As I laid the rebel flag down across Vernon's grave, I told my grandson what it represents -- our hope that racism and hatred would die," Bivins said. "That it would be killed at the root of our hearts, minds and souls."

Click HERE to read more about Bivins tribute to Vernon Dahmer


Ballot Box – Election – MISSISSIPPI, USA

The final tally is pending official certification but this past Tuesday Republican candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith beat her opponent, Democratic candidate Mike Espy: 473,109 to 404,640.  While a victory is a victory the margin is yet another warning bell for the GOP (Grand Old Party) and President Donald Trump’s waning popularity.

People protest and march against US President Donald Trump’s alleged interference in Robert Mueller’s investigation in New York City on November 8, 2018. – President Donald Trump was accused on November 8, 2018, of pushing America toward a constitutional crisis after his firing of the attorney general cast doubt over the future of an explosive probe into election collusion with Russian agents. (BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

In a state where voting is polarized among ethnic and party lines, in a normal environment voting experts felt the race should not have been close.  Even though Hyde-Park will remain in Washington, DC as Mississippi’s second Senator, she was not viewed as a strong candidate.  In the run-off with Espy two blunders cost her more than a few votes that reminded people of Mississippi’s past.  Many voters voiced consternation about having to vote for Hyde-Smith but felt their loyalty to the GOP was more important to the state’s legacy.

Vestiges of Slavery

For some slavery is a thing of the past.  Not every White person owned slaves and not every African-American was a slave, although a good many were.  Fast forward to 2018, data shows our society is more congenial than ever.  However, there is still an attitude that persist with many Whites that African-American’s can never be their equal.   It will be denied but simply look at the social fabric of the United States and inequality remains a persistent thorn in our image.  That attitude is a direct result of the legacy of slavery and racism where one race was dominant over the others.

 

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”  Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President

 

Segregation Academies

Brown v Board of Education was a landmark case in a pivotal time for the United States.  Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling public schools across the nation were ordered to end the practice of segregating students based on race.

 

While some accepted the ruling as the “law of the land” there were just a many who resisted.  The resistance came in many forms and the basis was race.  Many Whites who were part of that population didn’t necessarily define themselves as racist but through their ancestral inheritance they could never fathom direct association with African-Americans, let alone attend the same school with them.

 

Year after year, resistance took many forms.  Across the nation and specifically in Mississippi leaders developed a plan to thwart the ruling.  Rather than open their schools to all ethnicities they abandoned them and set-up private schools known as segregation academies.  The result was the assurance those with financial resources could opt out of public education and not have to attend classes with non-Whites.

 

In 1975, Cindy Hyde-Smith was a minor and she attended Lawrence Academy, which was a segregated academy founded in 1970.  More than likely the decision was made by her parents.  It’s one thing to aspire for a quality education but it is another to do so while minimizing your socialization with other groups?  Apparently Hyde-Smith enjoyed her school experience because to maintain the tradition, as an adult she enrolled her daughter in the same environment.

 

Creatures of habit

 

Some may think what is the big deal of wanting to attend a school with people like you?  The problem arises when you claim to want to represent a state made up of all types of people.   One’s socialization is in the spotlight of how you communicate with others.  In Hyde-Smith’s case, her past sheds light of some of her comments during the campaign where she appears to favor one group over the other, while claiming to be the representative for all!

 

The Ghost

Many Mississippians acknowledge their past history.  Since its opening in December 2017,  the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum has become a destination for locals and visitors to the state.  It showcases the resilience of the African-American experience in Mississippi but it also puts a spotlight on the injustices they had to deal with.  Part of the exhibit is the state’s history of lynching.

 

People from all walks of life make comments which may be viewed as racially insensitive.  Certain topics are taboo or better left unspoken.  One of those topics is any mention of lynching’s.  It conjures up all types of negative feelings and emotions.  For African-Americans who were oftentimes the victims, especially in Mississippi one would assume any comments would be held privately, let alone those who hold public office.

Hyde-Smith attempted to minimize her comment about lynching, instead employing the typical strategy of blaming those who brought her remarks up, as having some ulterior motive against her, instead of simply accepting the fact the remarks came out of her mouth?

 

The lynching comment and the fact of her likeness to segregated schools give pause to her mandate of successfully and equally represented all who claim Mississippi as their home state.

 

More perplexing is Hyde-Smith’s comments during the run-off debate on November 21st

 

 “WE HAVE TO DEFEND OUR CONSERVATIVE VALUES. WE HAVE TO DEFEND OUR SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS. WE HAVE TO DEFEND THE UNBORN CHILDREN IN MISSISSIPPI. I’M THE CANDIDATE THAT CARES. I’M THE CANDIDATE THAT HAS BEEN THERE SIX. I’M THE CANDIDATE THAT DONALD J. TRUMP HAS SAID WE NEED YOU BACK.  Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Nov. 21st.

 

Mississippi acknowledges its past racial history.  Indeed, through the years it has made progress.  Hyde-Smith’s challenge will be her allegiance to all Mississippians, not just those who espouse the Conservative values she emits.  She also must reconcile her attitude for using lynching as a reference to someone she has affinity for.  Then, she must use her power to deal with the education schism the state is known for and one which her parents and she perpetuated by being active participants.

 

In the meantime, those who voted now can take a break and ponder if they are willing to adjust their own racial bias.

Our 2018 Southern States Trek – Dr. King, Jim Crow, et. al


Our recent Southern States trek featuring some new sites, as well as those we were familiar with, and even included some from days of the past.  We ventured into Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas and covered about 1,500 miles.

 

Dr. King

 

Our dear friend James from San Francisco connected with us in Memphis, TN.  This was our primary destination as the world commemorated the 50th anniversary on April 4th which was the day of Dr. King’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel.   At the time of Dr. King’s death we were teenagers.  Now as adults we had a sense of urgency and consciousness which highlighted the historical importance of joining the hundreds of thousands who were also making the pilgrimage to Memphis.

 

Iconic Mountaintop Speech

 

Dr. King had an oratorical gift and many of his speeches are historic.  Most had no idea that his “Mountaintop Speech” at Mason Temple on April 3, 1968 would be his last.  Mason Temple through their connection with AFSME and the “I AM A MAN 2018” organization hosted an event where the full speech would be heard.  We were blessed to be in attendance to hear the speech and pay homage to Dr. King and the sanitation worker’s.

 

On April 4th events were going on all over the nation.  We participated in the events sponsored by the National Civil Rights Museum of which the Lorraine Motel is part of.


Roland Martin of TV took time to capture the day’s event

Later that evening, we were present to hear icons from the Civil Rights era participate in “An Evening of Storytelling.”


Capping off the commemoration was “An Evening of Storytelling” hosted by the MLK50 organization

 


clip courtesy of Roland Martin


Jim Crow

A typical Jim Crow sign highlighting customs Blacks must follow

Jim Crow is not a new foodie item!  It is the euphemism White leadership created once legalized slavery ended.  The emphasis was to develop a system and to establish customs which Blacks and other non-whites were mandated to follow.  Failure to abide resulted in harsh punishment and for many; DEATH!!!

This is the site – Arcade theater in Ferriday, LA where my brother and I first experienced southern Jim Crow. In 1962 we were directed upstairs to the colored section to see the movie

As African-Americans were emancipated from slavery, many whites or those in control could not fathom they had the same rights as them.  Those who were in power took on a very stubborn attitude.  The result was for them to create regulations, codes, customs to minimize or thwart African-Americans from obtaining equal rights.   As mentioned they cleverly called the system Jim Crow.

The legacy of Jim Crow is evident even in 2018 as some whites have never accepted African-Americans as equal.  It is engrained in the culture (in the United States and around the world).  Interestingly the psyche affects whites and even Blacks who invariably marginalize other blacks.

“if we are to implement the American dream we must get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races.”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

While Jim Crow was beaten down with legal victories during the civil rights movement, just like the Civil War; some uninformed Whites want to keep fighting it, as if it never ended.   They do not accept the fact their ancestors or those who they revere participated in treason!  The result in today’s reality is Jim Crow has spawned into a more sophisticated dynamic called James Crow, Esq.  From voter suppression to economic discrimination; the bottom line is to do what is necessary to keep certain segments of the population in check.

more Jim Crow

Many stops

 

There where many stops we made during our trek.  Some were event specific or where we had reservations to attend.  Others were the type of stops you make on a “day trip.”  In addition to the Lorraine, we swung by Ruleville to finally get to see the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden.

Fred & Judith at the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden

 

A bigger find was traveling about forty minutes southeast through the Mississippi Delta and winding up in Money.  For those who don’t know, Money is the site of Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Store and where 14-year-old Emmett Till while in the store allegedly whistled at the store’s owner, Mrs. Carolyn Bryant.  The act cost Till his life as he was accosted at 3am the next morning from the home where he was staying, which was with his uncle Moses Wright.  Like most homes in the rural south, it was in the woods (or in the country) about three miles from the store.   At gunpoint, Bryant’s husband, brother and others who formed a posse  demanded Wright turn him over.  After being savagely beaten and lynched the incident became national news as his mother, Mrs. Mamie Mobley shocked the world during the funeral and took the brave act insisting the casket remain open for all to see what Bryant’s posse had done.

Money, MS. A shadow of the store can be seen in the foreground.
Bryant’s Store – courtesy of Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
This was one of the boldest moves of the time!!! It shows Till’s uncle, Moses Wright testifying at the trial. Like many who were untrained Wright spoke in broken and barely audible vocabulary but he spouted off “Dar he” (there he is) as he pointed out Bryant as the person who came to his door and took his nephew. photo courtesy of Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

Claim recanted

Sadly fifty-three years later or in 2008, Carolyn Bryant recanted her claim that Till EVER whistled at her!!!!!!.  Her interview is chronicled in a book which came out in 2017.  Regardless, that was the custom of the south or behavior certain Whites took toward harassing Blacks.   Through the years many who made claims or assertions against Blacks, which caused great harm have been found to be untrue.

For those like us who had never been to Money, we quickly realized the town is more of an outpost of Greenwood.   Our next stop took us two hours to the south and we finally arrived at the state capitol in Jackson.  The site we were eager to see was the new Mississippi Civil Rights museum.  The organizers have done an amazing job of interpreting Mississippi’s involvement as it relates to African-American’s. The violence showcased is incredible.

Fred & Judith pose with Mrs. Pamela Junior who is the Executive Director of the new Mississippi Civil Rights museum

Following Jackson we ventured another two hours to antebellum Natchez.  Crossing the mississippi river we finally landed into Louisiana and made some stops in Vidalia, Ridgecrest and Ferriday, which is where my father hails from.  In summary, the four-state trek was a blessing and something we will remember for the rest of our lives.  Here are some scenes we are happy to share.