Apartheid Comes to America
It is still the Twenty-First Century, right? You might not think so if you live in Jackson, MS. Jackson is touted as the “Blackest city in America,” yet the white folks down there are making sure they stay in their place. The Mississippi state legislature-which is comprised mostly of all white Republicans-proposed and passed House Bill 1020. On its face, the bill doesn’t seem to be racially motivated; however, upon closer inspection, it is not only a bill to control this city, but it also takes away the right to vote from Jackson’s predominantly Black citizens.
Under the bill, the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court would appoint two judges to oversee a newly created district in the city, which includes one of the city’s majority white neighborhoods. Next, the white state attorney general would be allowed to appoint four prosecutors, a court clerk, and four public defenders, and the white public safety commission would oversee an expanded police force, which is run by a white chief. You see where this is going, don’t you? Once these positions are filled by appointments, it will eliminate the need to hold public elections. Keep in mind that this is not the norm in Mississippi; it is merely the new norm in Jackson-a city that is 83% black.
What makes this new bill even more appalling is that two Black members of the house, one Democrat and one independent, voted in favor of the bill. Huh? The lawmakers representing Jackson overwhelmingly opposed the measure, except for Shanda Yates, a white independent. A Democrat from Canton, Ed Blackmon, said: “Only in Mississippi would we have a bill like this . . . where we say solving the problem requires removing the vote from Black people.” This sounds like life on the plantation, when Massa knew what was best for all of us, effectively taking away our voice. The people of Jackson should be outraged, which is an understatement for the feelings of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who has accused the legislature of “plantation politics.” Lumumba said of the bill: “It reminds me of apartheid.”
Joy Reid of MSNBC spoke with Mayor Lumumba. She made some very interesting points, including the fact that only one Black has ever held a seat in statewide government in Mississippi, and that occurred during reconstruction. Mississippi is one-third Black-one of the heaviest Black populations in the nation-yet they have only one Black representative in Washington, Bennie Thompson, which Reid said is the result of gerrymandering. Mayor Lumumba said the bill is filled with unconstitutionalities and creates a district for the most densely white populated area. If we think we’ve seen police brutality, imagine what it would be like to live in an area in which police have no accountability.
Where all of this ends up is anybody’s guess, but the residents of Jackson better make their voices heard. If they stand together against this outrage, they can win. If they don’t, they will find themselves back in colonial times with no say unless Massa approves
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years