In Black and White: The Long and Short of It

Black Folks: Keep Your Head Up

When I was in New Orleans last week, a small group of us Mississippians gathered to talk about the election, since lots of other people at the convening were also discussing it. I was reminded of how know precarious the voting situation is for Black folks in the state, this country.

“There’s no reason [redacted] shouldn’t have won,” one person at the table said. I was confused. While we have one of the highest percentages in the nation of Black folks in our state, the idea that we’re not still a minoritized population, that’s disenfranchised befuddles me. While there’s plenty we could talk about, why bother right now?

The fact of the matter is, this isn’t on us. It is on the 449,746 people of voters who supported a gubernatorial candidate who struck down any bill that looked favorable for a majority of the state’s citizens when he was lieutenant governor.

We’re supposed to hold politicians accountable. They work for and represent us, supposedly. And generally speaking, accountability is important for us as people. Specifically, we, at The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects, hold it up as an organizational value. When Black Mississippians are held accountable by our white liberal counterparts (in and out of state) for the irresponsive and repressive leaders elected to state office, not only is that not fair, it’s sociopolitical abuse. We can explore more of that later.

All there is to say, before I write to our white counterparts is this: Keep pushing, then take a break when you need to. And while you’re at it, since today is National Run for Office Day, if you haven’t already, put your bid in or consider what you as a public servant might be able to do. I get tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, don’t you?

***

White Folks: Your Slip is Hanging

I was in New Orleans right after the statewide election in Mississippi last week on November 5. The topic of much of the non-convening conversation for people from across the nation was the elections. Virginia recently voted to give their House and Senate to people who believe in good education, affordable healthcare and a living, $15-an-hour wage. Kentucky elected a progressive governor, too. But much of the chatter was about what happened at the polls where we’d just voted. White people in Mississippi are often harshly judged by your white peers living outside the South, so that was no surprise. Countless political cartoons and opinions from around the nation depict Mississippi as the go-to place for poverty and self-injury. We are dead last in countless rating systems, and the worst state in which to have a baby. We all know this. But maybe it’s time to address it.

Beloveds, you made some low-brow political decisions on Nov. 5, all the way up and down the ballot. The most egregious of these, of course, was your vote for governor. You chose for governor a man who tried to use taxpayer dollars to build a private driveway from his affluent neighborhood to a nearby Rankin County shopping center and filmed part of his pro-public education commercial at a private school. And for lieutentant governor you chose a former secretary of state who has been accused of razing Section 14 land at an unsustainable level, imposed anti-democratic vote restrictions on voters as soon as the conservative U.S. Supreme Court allowed him, and whose last act as secretary of state was to defend a Jim Crow law in court. But you knew that, didn’t you? And you did it anyway.

This tells me something about you, but everybody deserves to know when their slip is showing or their shirt is on inside out. You are our neighbors; therefore, what you do affects us.

Here’s the deal, white people of Mississippi: You’re aggravating an image problem.

There’s been more scandal in Washington DC surrounding the president than we can possibly link in one story. Worst, perhaps, was the president’s acknowledged attempts to strong-arm a beleaguered foreign nation into disparaging a political opponent. The white politicians you’ve elected have all tried to deny—despite ample evidence—that President Trump attempted to withhold military aid to Ukraine until that nation’s leader agreed to investigate Joe Biden’s son for being a brownnoser. There’s no law against using your Dad’s name to get an undeserved and very good job, like Hunter Biden did. If there was, perhaps the incarceration rates wouldn’t be as disproportionately skewed as they are.

We see what you’re doing, though. You, just like the guy you chose for governor, are cuddling up to your president, even after the Ukraine accusations, his shady refusal to hand over his tax information like every other president since the 1970s, and after the state of New York shut down his businesses for scamming students, and hit him with a $2 million fine for illegally using a foundation to line his own pockets.

Really, who am I kidding? You know this. You are the ones sticking with him, and regurgitating arguments that are so asinine, you couldn’t possibly be buying what you’re selling. It makes you look suspicious, at best; unprincipled and racist, at worst. “well, these are the same folks who lynched pregnant women on a Mississippi bridge, after all. Self-awareness may not be their strong point.”

I’m not confused. I know you don’t usually care what Black people in Mississippi think of you. If you did, you wouldn’t have institutionalized owning, raping and selling us 400 years ago, or voted recently to keep a symbol for segregation and slavery on our state flag. Most people do tend to care what others think about them, though. And that’s where we differ. I hate getting followed everywhere around the store like a shoplifter or mistaken for someone who works there, though I’m not wearing a uniform, for example.

Of course, people can’t force you to take the tin pot off your head and quit banging it with a spoon, white Mississippi. The only thing we can do, really, is tell you that this behavior isn’t normal, and we don’t like having to sit next to you.

So please stop. Please?

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