What Jackson (and Mississippi) Really Needs | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

What Jackson (and Mississippi) Really Needs

Recently, a group of social scientists has produced the American Human Development Index illustrating graphically how states in the US stack up against each other in relation to a variety of social well-being indicators. These include education, health, and income along with demographics, environment, housing, and safety variables.

Far too often, Mississippi and most Southern States have placed at the bottom of these kinds of measures. This continues in the American Human Development Index. Why is this? Why in Mississippi, for instance, is there high teen pregnancy, obesity, transmission of STDs, food insecurity? Why is there low educational attainment, SAT scores, and median annual earnings?

Of course, my asking why is more rhetorical in order to make a point. The South - including our state and city of Jackson - continually lags behind other regions especially the West and East coast.

Now, those coastal states are also the more "progressive" on a myriad of social indicators ranging from health care and education to gay rights and racial equality.

Of course, being progressive doesn't necessarily indicate that one's state will do well economically. Utah, for example, is a very conservative state with solid economic and quality of life statistics. However, they are the exception, not the rule.

Yet, the data begs this question: Is the way Mississippi has done things for so long really working for us? It doesn't seem to be so or at least the data doesn't show that we are doing well.

In order to attract the creative and dynamic industry and workforce needed to develop our state, we need a new vision. Why would workers and business that attract them come to a state that is economically depressed and whose political establishment continues to stick their head in the proverbial sand?

It seems to me that Jackson could lead the way - like Austin, TX, Atlanta, GA, Raleigh, NC, have in their states - by promoting a community that is diverse, tolerant, vibrant, and progressive.

Previous Comments

ID
147487
Comment

It's time for the citizens of Mississippi to elect an African American for Governor. I've read many articles saying it’s impossible to elect an African American for governor. Mississippi claims the past is the past (racism) yet, Mississippi has never elected an African American to a statewide office. Mississippi Governors (all white), past and present, have not elevated the state to economic prosperity, reduction of poverty, a successful educational system, employment, reduction in crime, and teen pregnancy. Mississippi continues to give rise to private schools, private golf courses, private organization etc., do not care that the state continues to be at the bottom or close to the bottom in all areas compared to other states. Can an African American do any worse than the previous white administrations? I'm looking for real dialog.

Author
SashaB
Date
2009-05-17T01:08:03-06:00
ID
147716
Comment

ok, then let's make it a conversation piece. i'm open to hearing other comments if no other than you. thanks for responding. i could have written a book. talk back to me.

Author
SashaB
Date
2009-05-18T23:41:25-06:00
ID
147739
Comment

If we truly want to be progressive, we need to look at things without race, period. Race tension is one of the most extensive problems that is holding Mississippi back from moving forward/catching up. In order to be progressive, we have to start looking at progressive ideas, not the color of one's skin. This can happen when we cast away biasing and focus on the progression of the whole.

Author
chip
Date
2009-05-19T10:52:07-06:00
ID
147741
Comment

Agreed, Chip. That's the goal. But you can't get there until you acknowledge the racism that currently exists and how it's still used, and how certain people are disadvantaged because of it. As they say: truth will set us free.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T10:55:12-06:00
ID
147744
Comment

We can only get there one person at a time. Fortunate for us, time is on our side, for as the more time that passes, the tension eases more and more, ie the racists die off. The seeds of racism are planted at a young age, and until we all become educated about how it affects our lifestyle in a negative way, then we will not progress as we should. It is those who are selfish that make it difficult to succeed, and that goes for all sides of the spectrum.

Author
chip
Date
2009-05-19T11:12:24-06:00
ID
147757
Comment

Great issue. I don't think that a black governor will do any better simply because they're black. I don't think MS hasn't progressed on these social indicators simply because there has only been white governors (CA, UT, CT haev never had black governeors, and they seem to be doing much better than MS). It is about values and thinking.I think "Mississippi values" actually do more harm than good socially in this state. For instance, things like a high teen pregnancy rate, low birthweight babies, and higher rates of STD transmission can be correlated with latent attitudes(and thus social policies)about sex. How many other state departments of health or departments of community development use as their primary sexual educational philosophy an abstinence campaign? Seeing that, though we preach abstinence, it is not stopping the widespread increases in teen pregnancies and STD transmission, the abstinence message is not effective (I'm not saying that it is right or wrong, but is it an effective use of ad dollars?). But, rather than consider the practicality of abstinence in a statewide health and development campaign, people here will easily get bogged down in the ideological debate, which will yield very few practical social solutions (one can't legislate morality). That is just one of many examples where the social and civic discourse here in MS gets bogged down in ideology, rahter than panning after innovative and workable solutions. I guess the matter boils down to a simple question, would one rather have social-economic policies grounded in "immoral solutions" (in which the immorality of the solutions is a very subjective notion) or "moral absolutes" that don't solve social problems? Blackwatch!!!!!!

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2009-05-19T12:33:21-06:00
ID
147823
Comment

I don't think so either Blackwatch but unfortunately I have to constantly identify groups in Mississippi by color of skin because skin color is determines those in power. Mississippi is basically a racist state - no way around that. It is a racist state because most white, especially the gatekeepers, have been born, and bred to protect the sovereignty of the state for white is supreme. I question whether hatred of the black skin is a real reason for racism in Mississippi. Mississippians, for the most part, do get along, as long as blacks stay in their place of no power. Black people were brought to Mississippi to be slaves, serve, and be submissive. Southern whites can’t see a black in any other position than that. How ironic is this, usually when racism is mentioned people automatically think its hatred. Racism, for Mississippi, does not necessarily have to mean hatred. I don’t hate you as a person, I hate the fact that you think you are equal to me. The south fought hard to maintain segregation. For southern white knew that integration meant equality. Racism continues in the south from tradition, conservative religious belief. Over the past decades, the people most affected by the social indicators are black. Blacks are stereotyped, as unhealthy, uneducated, lives in poverty, don’t pay taxes, always looking for a handout, participants in high rate of crime, drugs and on and on. And my question is who has held the keys to the doors of opportunities to blacks? When schools were mandated to integrate, the whites built private school (raised the funds and had support from every white organization existing. Who had the jobs? Who control the financial institutions? My point, it has been the southern white who has plotted to keep the black in a space and place where he couldn’t raise above that which had been carved out by the white for him/her to do. This didn’t mean that the whites hated blacks. This meant that the whites were not going to relinquish power to the black and allow blacks to become equal regardless of what the constitution said – the civil rights act. It is because of this mindset, we need a Black governor. We need a black governor not to prove that a black man or woman can win a statewide position. We need a black governor because a black governor has no stake in keeping Mississippi whites in power (eternal gatekeepers). A black governor has no reason to ignore the social indicators of health, education, economic development, crime, and drugs that are plaguing our communities today because it is the black governor's people that are affected by those social indicators. A white governor cannot improve those social indicators in because it helps the black man. Helping the black man to improve threatens the control of power. The white governor is not interested in aiding the black man’s woes because his job (not based on hatred but based on power) is to keep the black down - limited and in a position where he will never gain power. If this isn’t true then why has Mississippi remained at the bottom of the barrel decade after decade? The good "ole boy" system can only die at the hands of a black governor because a black governor do not owe allegiance to the confederate flag, ancestors who bred hatred , racism and fear and will not continues to support and the Citizens Council or any other white organization. A black governor will focus on the needs of all citizens of Mississippi, because a black governor’s interest is not to carry on the traditions of the old south but truly seek to establish a new Mississippi. Mississippi wake up! (Overlook typos, grammar etc. try to get the point - never claimed to be an English major) SashaAnn

Author
SashaB
Date
2009-05-20T00:48:13-06:00
ID
147834
Comment

A black governor would not guarantee equality, especially one who has grown up here and experienced the racial tension his/her whole life. If we really want equality in the governor's office, it would have to come from an outsider with no ties to either side of the fence, but that's not going to happen. What we need is elected leaders who do not play favorites and truly look out for the best interests for all of Mississippi. I believe in democracy, but the politics in our nation and in our state have become distasteful and tainted. It is not pure.

Author
chip
Date
2009-05-20T07:40:19-06:00
ID
147836
Comment

Sasha, You hit on some very good points. You’re right, the power structure in this state is predominantly white and male, and that is a serious problem. The keys to opportunity are inextricably bound to white men who are acting in their own best interests. Political, business, and, dare I say, religious leadership in this state have held up white supremacy, spun as “Mississippi values”, as the normative value in decisions that they have made. But, simply having a black governor isn’t the solution. You seem to generalize a lot concerning how white people and black people think and value things. I would no sooner have Alan Keyes nor Clarence Thomas as governor of MS as I would have Haley Barbour. Like I stated before, it isn’t the skin color of the governor that has made MS into what we see today socially, but the thinking and values that dominate the social discourse and politics of the state. While I agree with you that racism isn’t about hatred so much today, as it is about power and resource distribution, I don’t think the answer is about giving a black person the opportunity to just try and dominate like whites have done. I think it is simply about justice and calls to hold leadership accountable to all people, regardless of their perceived social standing. Blackwatch

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2009-05-20T07:47:31-06:00
ID
147837
Comment

Blackwatch says it much better than I do. :)

Author
chip
Date
2009-05-20T07:49:45-06:00

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