There was an eerie sense of expectation surrounding downtown Philadelphia, Miss., on this soon-to-be infamous afternoon. It was quiet...almost too quiet, underneath the blanket of sweltering humidity.
Reporters circled the courthouse in search of a story and Klan member J.J. Harper got all of the attention he was hoping to receive while carelessly handing out his KKK, Inc. business cards. One protester surfaced, right off the square, on the corner of Main and Central, his sign reading something like this: Killen and Klan and Kind represent 66.6% of Mississippi...remember the flag vote.
It seems as if much of the media, particularly the foreign media, have preconceived stories in their heads when it comes to Mississippi, and they have come to Philadelphia in order to fill the gaps in their narrative. Now, we all know that an unbiased opinion is practically nonexistent, and anyone that knows me knows that as far as trying to force one's personal view into the shoes of reality, I also tend to treat Mississippi this way. The difference is that now I have had the chance to view this practice from a distance.
No matter what the current situation is in Mississippi, many reporters are searching for the Mississippi of the '60s. Their story is already formed before they set foot in the state, and the evidence they choose to include must defend this picture, meaning that the portrayal of today's Mississippi by some may look frighteningly similar to the Mississippi of the past, the Mississippi that is being prosecuted in the Killen case.
Although there are appalling similarities, I think we must be careful as we attempt to designate between the Hollywood blockbuster in our heads and the actual situation in front of us.
— Natalie Irby
Thank you for writing this. When I was growing up in Philadelphia I observed exactly the same thing year after year, anniversary after anniversary. What makes me hopeful is that now the real efforts and healing and reconciliation are underway and have been too big for the national media to ignore. Finally there has been some balanced coverage, most notably an NPR story on the commemeration ceremonies last summer.
- Mark Michalovic
Coverage is certainly better than in the past, but Natalie's observations are right. She listened to one European reporter interview me yesterday, and he was clearly following his own narrative rather than following the story. And when Ióand many of you know I'm not exactly an apologistótried to answer his questions truthfully about how things have/haven't changed (they have, and they haven't and here's how), he looked at me rather incredulously and stopped writing. I certainly got the feeling that he thought that I, I, was trying to sugarcoat Mississippi's past because I didn't proclaim that absolutely nothing has changed over the years.
I told him that I thought that lingering race issues hide in issues of crime, education and health care, not to mention poverty, in the state, but he glazed over at that one. I think he was looking for burning crosses instead, and I just couldn't cough one up for him on short notice. So he moved on.
You should have told him he could find some in North Carolina if he wanted burning crosses... Story @ CNN.com
This is what I don't get -- all you hear is how racist Mississippi is and how there's NO progression (I'll admit it's slow as a turtle) but when you hear about this stuff going on in NC or other places it's just news... No real bashing and no real drama about North Carolina being full of racist hicks. What's up with that?
Are we really America's beating toy (besides Iraq)?
No real bashing and no real drama about North Carolina being full of racist hicks. What's up with that?
I think he was looking for burning crosses instead, and I just couldn't cough one up for him on short notice. So he moved on.
I think it's like that because Mississippi's people and politicians "dance" when the music is played. Most others states seem to know when they're being painted into a corner, but not Mississippi and Mississippians. We run around waving the Confederate battle flag and rebel-yelling as if the Civil War were still going on. Don't tell me the flag is not waving. Go down to any state government building and I bet you'll see it.
We [Mississippians] seem proud to look like Jackasses and I think that's what fascinates the rest of America. Ladd, I know you've chastised me for the broad strokes in the past, but this rings true to a point wouldn't you say.
- El Canario
Yes, there is truth in that. It's certainly true that the media are attracted to the Mississippians who do that stuff -- and that we keep elected their butts, and keeping racist symbols flapping over the state capitol and our re-segregated schools. I've complained about this many times -- it really is up to Mississippians to change what others think of us as a whole, and what we (and upcoming generations) think of ourselves.
The good news is: If we try, people will notice. We're already learning that with the Jackson Free Press.
But do it for ourselves first; then the others will take note. It's not about public relations; it's about getting over our inferiority complex as a state. And we must do that if we ever want to be truly prosperous (for more than a few).
So, yes, I agree with you, El: Mississippians (and N-Jammer types) need to get over getting pleasure from behaving and looking like jackasses. There is really is something higher to aspire to.