NPR Listeners Dissect, Unload on Mississippi | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

NPR Listeners Dissect, Unload on Mississippi

photo

Brad Franklin

NPR's Bryant Park Project did a piece yesterday about segregated school proms in Charleston, Miss. (a piece that was inspired by Kamikaze's column in the Jackson Free Press on the topic). The segment is drawing quite the array of comments about Mississippi on NPR's blog. Here's one to consider:

Way to go Mississippi. I see this article and think backwoods racist hicks. The civil rights movement is fifty years strong. Schools were desegragated in the 1970's and yet Mississippi is one place where racism thrives forcing itself on one generation after another. Hello, in this day and age we should not be hearing anything about segragated this or that. This article shows how backwards the minds of Mississippi whites are. Any yes I am blaming you whites - the KKK, the lynchers, the cross burners. I know you're there. You folks are unbelievable. Way to show the world what a "wonderful" state you have. (sic)

Thoughts? The Web editor called and asked me for my reactions to the comments, and I'd be curious to hear what the JFP Nation has to say before responding. (And for the benefits of some of the NPR blog readers who might find their way here, you might consider identifying your race with your comments, so they don't make assumptions about you.)

Previous Comments

ID
130755
Comment

I'm not offended that this person sees segregation in Mississippi; it's very real. What offends me more is that this person doesn't see segregation in the rest of the country. I don't mind if Mississippi whites get portrayed as racist dimbulbs; frankly, we've earned the reputation. But I do mind when people get a warm fuzzy feeling from negative coverage about Mississippi that leads them to ignore segregation and oppression in their own communities. People need to remember that when Dr. King got the Civil Rights Act passed, he moved up North and took on the effects of segregation in Detroit and Chicago and Harlem. He understood segregation was a national problem. I'm troubled by the people who seem to think it's a problem exclusive to the nation's poorest state, a Southern state that also has the nation's highest per capita black population. I'm also troubled when people abandon said black population by portraying Mississippi as a state beyond hope. Mississippi is like the national racial scapegoat--people put all of the nation's racial sins on us and then send us out in the woods and assume the rest of the country must be clean when it's just as racist as it was before. The "black Mississippians are invisible" approach has been the national policy since the end of Reconstruction in 1877, and it's still reflected in the way films portray black Mississippians as helpless non-participants in the civil rights movement when they were in fact leading the charge. That attitude towards black Mississippians is reflected in the quote above. If that sounds more like a series of random thoughts than an argument for or against something, it's because not sure what to think about this sentiment, to be honest. I'd like to hear what other people's reactions are.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-06-12T12:12:42-06:00
ID
130756
Comment

I'm pretty much with you, and I just taped an NPR segment talking about it. Will post a link when I get it; tomorrow, I think.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-12T13:17:04-06:00
ID
130757
Comment

In the south people say it up front to your face. In the north they say it behind your back, except for the occasional n****r calling, Aunt Jemima cut-out, etc. Anyone who wants to see segregation come to Franklin County, Massachusetts, stay in our spare room and I'll show you segregated schools, jails, churches, communities...

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-06-12T13:18:25-06:00
ID
130758
Comment

I'll quote this from Kaze's column (linked above) because it's right on: Bottom line? The idea of separate proms in this day and age is ridiculous. In fact, as a proud Mississippian, it's embarrassing. My hat goes off to Freeman for putting his money where his mouth is by funding the prom in an effort to improve race relations. Thanks to Moyo and the film crew for exposing that wound to light. And kudos to those kids for having more courage and conviction than some of their parents did. They have chosen to help truly heal that wound. And if we truly hope to change things, we have to stop parents--white and black--from passing on the poison of hate and separation to our kids. This is yet another instance where the adults should take a cue from us "whippersnappers." I was honored to be a part of it. I think Kaze would agree with me that the world needs to not only notice and harangue Mississippi for what we do wrong and the old (and young) racist goats we share with the rest of the world. They need to pay attention to the amazing racial strides that are happening here due to some very determined people being deliberate about changing what isn't working. There's some news worth noticing and reporting. Sure, talk about the segregated proms, but also talk about the efforts to take on the past and improve the future. Ignorant denunciations of Mississippi as if we are the receptable of the world's racist really ticks off the multiracial coalitions of people here trying to do something about it. Stereotypes are stereotypes. Oh, and here's another little story about Mississippi's young people that the national (and state) media ignored four years ago.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-12T13:32:44-06:00
ID
130759
Comment

(Oh, and allow me to spread a little love and pride to Thabi Moyo, a Jackson native who went to Howard, then came on back home. She worked with the JFP for a while as a photographer, funded by an AAN diversity grant, and helped with our initial James Ford Seale coverage. Then she returned to filmmaking, which is her love. Much love to her for doing the great work she's doing in her home state—she's another one of our young heroes determined to make a difference.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-12T13:35:02-06:00
ID
130765
Comment

The only place I personally have heard the n word used for me by a white person since I have been an adult was in Chicago. The only place where cops have made me feel disrespected as an adult was in Chicago. A policeman recently beat up a white woman in Chicago so maybe that gives it some perspective --- maybe they just have a neanderthal organizational culture. The article about racism in Philadelphia, MS that was in the LA Times recently reflected more positively on the younger generation (like the young lady who wanted her Af/Am friend at her wedding, but her parents objected). Generational change is coming in MS.

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-06-12T16:50:15-06:00
ID
130766
Comment

Agreed, Whitley. I truly don't mind the national media (or international, considering that the "Prom Night" filmmaker is Canadian) coming in and looking at our history and lingering problems—get in line, because we're on that beat—but what gets us all, regardless of race or politics, is when they act like they don't have race problems where they live, or they don't bother to notice the amazing, deliberate efforts that are happening here. I call it the "Krazy Klucker in the Korner" syndrome, and it's as non-thinking and stereotypical as the idiocy that has happened, and still happens, here. I personally find that the race dialogue in Mississippi puts every other state to shame. I've never heard it (or told it) as straight as right here in ole Mississlop. There is no place like home.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-12T17:33:38-06:00
ID
130767
Comment

"I personally find that the race dialogue in Mississippi puts every other state to shame. I've never heard it (or told it) as straight as right here in ole Mississlop.' - laddie Other than with family, I've never heard the race dialogue anywhere like here at JFP. It's a taste of what's really possible. So I guess I read this board to know there's good people and reasons to have hope for the future.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-06-12T18:20:45-06:00
ID
130768
Comment

Thanks, Will. This level of dialogue is the goal and was a primary mission of the JFP (even in the business plan!). Otherwise, you and I might never talk, or listen, to each other. Still, I am often humbled and amazed at the level of dialogue that happens here in the JFP Nation. Yes, we've created a safe space where the loudmouths and whiners can't immediately shut it down as they do elsewhere, but it's the people who show up here and get real who make the dialogue what it is. Cheers to you all. But the truth is that there are other people trying to do the same thing. The Winter Institute, for instance, is sending young people around the state to foster conversations (we're working with them on a project now), and I've been involved with a lot of public forums here. People may have held it in for a long time, but when the spigot is opened, it comes pouring out. I said at an AAN convention a couple years back that our site might have such great race dialogue because people in our state haven't really had a way to talk to each other for a couple of centuries or more. I was only half joking. We have a lot bottled up in these parts. We also like to talk. ;-D

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-12T18:25:38-06:00
ID
130769
Comment

Laddie, I'm off topic, but if you want to see a class act look in today's Boston Globe at Boston.com, or in Boston's gay and lesbian weekly "Bay Windows" for the article and photo about Governor Deval Patrick with his 18 year old daughter coming out as a lesbian. Deval is a taste of what it could be like. He's probably going to be the best governor Massachusetts ever had and he's a hint of what Obama might be like. This is a fantastic family, Mrs. Patrick is a wonderful lady, and I'm just really proud of them and what they stand for.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-06-12T19:03:25-06:00
ID
130770
Comment

Nice. ;-) And Will, for the record, you are the only one allowed to call me "Laddie." You have earned the right.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-12T19:36:59-06:00
ID
130772
Comment

Backwoods racist hicks? Even though I'm a black woman and I know that the author of that comment wasn't talking about me, I am still offended. I don't think that blanket label should be placed on every white Mississippian. I know from experience that not all white people here are that way, and I hope that they come to this site and read the articles and comments here to see how diverse folks down here really are.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-06-12T20:22:58-06:00
ID
130777
Comment

Will, agreed re Deval Patrick. Some folks call him, and Obama for that matter, "postracial"; I say no sir, they are both African-American men and nobody with eyes to see thinks otherwise, but they're so great and so compelling that white folks with racist inclinations are actually willing to overlook their racism and vote for them, much like some people who didn't like Catholics were willing to overlook that and vote for Kennedy, and some folks who didn't like Southerners were willing to overlook that and vote for Carter. Patrick and Obama both have a force of personality and a vision that even draws in people who otherwise would never vote for a black candidate. That doesn't make them postracial; it actually doesn't change them a bit. It's the voters who are being changed. To name another example of an emerging great black governor, I'm already impressed with David Paterson. He has shown more chutzpah than Spitzer ever had on LGBT issues, and yet conservatives like him much more than they liked Spitzer. He is by early indications one of those people who has courage of conviction but still manages to earn the respect of people on the other side of the aisle. A statesman, in other words. Bodes well for his tenure...

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-06-13T03:38:26-06:00
ID
130778
Comment

Donna, agreed re Thabi... A brilliant, funny, and incredibly kind human being. And a good illustration of the way the JFP has helped some brilliant, funny, and incredibly kind human beings get noticed.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-06-13T03:39:01-06:00
ID
130782
Comment

Oh. My. God. I was in Lexington, KY during a race riot where a white police officer shot and killed a black man in his own home. The FLDS, which has been in the news so much recently for their polygamist beliefs, has a very harsh view on race. They don't allow interracial marriages: their "prophet", Warren Jeffs, said, "the black race is the people through which the devil has always been able to bring evil unto the earth." The largest Klan organization is based in Zinc, Arkansas. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists California as having the most hate groups, with 80 listed. New Jersey has 34, Pennsylvania has 33, South Carolina 45, Georgia 42, Florida 49, and Texas has 67. These all have more listed than Mississippi, which has 28. The only states that have no hate groups listed are Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island and South Dakota. We may not be perfect, but at least we're doing something about it. This dude needs to get his head out of his nether regions. look around, and find the racists in his own backyard. Then he needs to get up, join us, and DO something about it. That's my two cents worth on the subject.

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2008-06-13T08:57:53-06:00
ID
130786
Comment

Philadelphia, PA is pretty segmented racially with the notable exception of west Mount Airy which was intentionally an interracial neighborhood and has tons of interracial families. In Boston, young Black professionals I know talk about the difficulty of dating and meeting someone because the club scene is so divided; also the glass ceiling for Black professionals in their careers. Both are northern cities. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of fair minded Mississippians on this site and other message boards who really want to put history behind them. And, there are people in public life in Jackson of the caliber of Obama and Deval. I'm a big Deval fan. He's very intelligent, but I like his wife and that they are basically two decent and good people. They tried to crucify Deval even before he took office, especially one state senator Travaglini, who I think is now somewhere at the bottom of Boston Harbor, and Deval has always taken the high road and maintained his dignity. There are quality people like Deval in MS.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-06-13T10:30:16-06:00
ID
130787
Comment

Hey folks, the NPR-Bryant Park Web editor just sent the following links for her interview with me. I've listened to the segment, but not the full interview, yet. Hopefully, I don't sound stupid. ;-) Blog item from today’s segment, with full interview: http://www.npr.org/blogs/bryantpark/2008/06/the_integrated_prom_a_mississi.html Today’s segment: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91461347 The original story, updated with the interview: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91371629

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-13T10:40:42-06:00
ID
130791
Comment

Beautifully done, Donna. My favorite statement: "Some of those holdouts: they just gotta die off."

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2008-06-13T11:05:22-06:00
ID
130793
Comment

In Boston, young Black professionals I know talk about the difficulty of dating and meeting someone because the club scene is so divided; also the glass ceiling for Black professionals in their careers. Both are northern cities. My Dad once told me that Boston was one of the most racist cities he's ever visited or lived in outside of the South.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-06-13T12:02:51-06:00
ID
130795
Comment

Thanks, Lady. I just got a minute to listen to the full interview, and I rather laughed at myself about that one. And folks, Laura Conaway is from Jackson. ;-) We accidentally found each other when she became my Village Voice editor in NYC. Small world, eh?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-13T12:57:56-06:00
ID
130796
Comment

To Jeff's comment ... Racism is everywhere in America, BUT as I always like to say (and I apologize to those who've heard me say it a million times here), that *never* excuses it anywhere. I hate to hear southerners use the racism-is-everywhere excuse to not face our own racism even more than I hate to hear non-southerners point to Mississippi as the last great racist haven on the planet. Both are ignorant approaches and come from similar places. Denial. For more on my views on this complex conversation that too many people make simple, read the cover essay, "Dredging Up the Past: Why Mississippians Must Tell Our Own Stories," that I wrote as the Seale trial opened last summer. I'm happy to report that I take the north and the south, and most of the media, to task in that piece. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-13T13:02:28-06:00
ID
130798
Comment

I find the ignorance about the strides we make here in Mississippi appalling. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised anymore, but it's still sad that they have us all (that's all, not just one little group) as hate-filled bigots.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-06-13T14:13:33-06:00
ID
130799
Comment

Iron, do bear in mind, though, that the state of Mississippi sends out horrible messages about ourselves. For instance, in the flag vote, we cemented a particular impression for years to come -- or until we take down the flag. I believe in calling out ignorant, or narrow-minded proclamations about racist Mississippi, but we Mississippians must take responsibility for getting the actual messages out about what we're doing right. If not, posts like this one sitting over on clarionledger.com will define us for the world: In Feb of 07, I was part of a group who was trying to help this X-soldier "turned state employee" get State Disability Retirement and, the building we had to go to had not one white employee to meet the eye till we got into the hearing arena. I'm talking from the person at the gate to allow us to park to everyone else we had to deal with to get to the allowed hearing. This was in Downtown Jxn sorta close to the Capitol. Believe me when I say "I was relieved to get out of the area." Guaranteed cash flow for nothing earned creates mental / physical illnesses. It is the nature of all life forms to be productive and if this is not part of the mental/physical schematic, both systems will go awry creating a monster. Anthropology 101. You're welcome. It's the same reason we must, must challenge stankin-thankin like that in the Northside Sun, when Wyatt gave the $100 award to the slave-apologist column. The most alarming thing about that whole episode if that (a) he didn't apologize for it in his own paper and (b) his readers didn't send in letters or e-mails complaining about it. That is, if we don't like narrow views of us, we must engage in some different public relations and not let the bigots of the state speak on our behalf.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-13T14:22:08-06:00
ID
130800
Comment

I said we were making progress, not entering the holy land of equality, Donna. :) I just hold the belief that for all of our faults, we're farther along because we're debating, and not living in ingorance like some places I've been in these United States.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-06-13T14:27:01-06:00
ID
130801
Comment

Iron, I agree with you totally on that. I just like to seize every opportunity to remind Mississippians not to have a bunker mentality, either, or to let defensiveness cloud what we have yet to do. Viva la dialogue! ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-13T14:57:30-06:00
ID
130802
Comment

On that, I've always said it's our problem, we'll solve it. We don't need them to tell us we have problems.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-06-13T15:06:00-06:00
ID
130804
Comment

I agree partially. We do have to solve it, but sometimes it takes "outsiders" getting involved, like during the Civil Rights Movement when young people and the federal government helps us end Jim Crow. And you have to watch the "us" vs. "them" usage—it's easy to come across sounding like our relatives did back in the '60s when they whined about "outside agitators." Look, we're all Americans here, and if it took a little outside intervention to end brutal institutions of slavery and Jim Crow, bring it on, baby. Likewise, though, in this day and age, I would argue that many people in the country could use a dose of Mississippi-style dialogue on their own postage stamp ... or at least the type this here crowd engages in. It ain't always easy (seldom); sometimes it gets ugly; and we make enemies out of bigots who don't want to be challenged on their revisionist views of slavery or their back-a$$ ideas about "anchor babies," but we're having the dad-blasted conversation, people. No excuses allowed.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-06-13T15:16:54-06:00
ID
130819
Comment

Very good job Donna! You represent well.

Author
saint H
Date
2008-06-13T20:09:36-06:00

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