There's a fine line between Gov. Phil Bryant's tacit assent of Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and Mississippi's complete abdication of its responsibility to educate its children.
Let us explain: Following what is being investigated as a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, public blame was directed largely at Islam and even more so when we learned that the suspected shooters were Muslim.
Predictably, Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for president, started moving his mouth before consulting his brain and suggested closing the border to Muslims—which is as impractical as it is bigoted.
When asked to respond to Trump, Gov. Bryant hedged: "I agree that we need to be very careful letting anyone into this nation—anyone. If we begin to say there's opportunities (for) tens of thousands to come in to the U.S., I think at this time we need to double all of our efforts to make sure whoever comes into these states is a citizen or has been properly vetted."
In other words, and contrary to the small-government philosophy he ostensibly follows, Bryant is suggesting that bureaucrats should decide who is worthy to come into the country and who is not.
The same arrogance is evident in the state's refusal to fully fund public schools, which continued this week with the legislative budget committee's most recent recommendation to keep underfunding schools. This is true despite the fact that nearly $400 million is sitting in reserves doing nothing but earning interest.
America and, indeed, Mississippi have an ugly past of discriminating against non-whites and non-Protestants even though the great irony is that the first white settlers to arrive on these shores did so to escape religious persecution in Europe. Maybe someone should have vetted them, but we'll set that aside for now.
The history of our country since those massive ships carrying slaves and pilgrims came ashore is now with us. That history is ugly and painful, but we have to deal with it, and we have to try to get it right. In Mississippi, that history is still playing out as state officials continue dictating which children (affluent, white) receive good educations and which don't (poor, black).
Our national values that tend to evolve slowly over time but eventually end up on the right side of history say that all people—regardless of color, religion, race, nationality, gender, sex, etc.—living and breathing in this country deserve basic human dignity and respect from our government.
Last year, we had a whole debate about the government getting out of the way of religious freedoms. This year, we had a debate about the importance of education to our state's future.
The election is over, for crying out loud. It's past time for Gov. Bryant and the rest of the legislative decision-makers to stop pandering and start respecting the human rights of all Mississippians—from refugees to schoolkids.