[News] Mississippi: A State of White Power and Black Self-Determination in Conflict - Atlanta Black Star

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Wed Apr 20 11:06:47 EDT 2016


*http://atlantablackstar.com/2016/04/18/mississippi-a-state-of-white-power-and-black-self-determination-in-conflict/* 



  Mississippi: A State of White Power and Black Self-Determination in
  Conflict - Atlanta Black Star

David Love - April 18, 2016

What is wrong with Mississippi? It is a question that people are asking 
as the latest news unfolds in that Southern state.

Gov. Phil Bryant declared April Confederate Heritage Month 
<http://atlantablackstar.com/2016/02/25/mississippi-governor-declares-april-confederate-heritage-month-slavery-ignored/> 
in Mississippi.  And yet, as other states have distanced themselves from 
the Confederate flag following the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina 
massacre, whites in the Magnolia state cling to that symbol of domestic 
terrorism and white supremacy.  And a Black civil rights lawyer, Carlos 
Moore, has asked a federal court to remove the Mississippi flag 
<http://atlantablackstar.com/2016/03/10/black-lawyer-receives-death-threats-after-filing-federal-lawsuit-to-remove-confederate-flag-from-mississippi-capitol/> 
from the state capitol, and has received death threats in the process.

Mississippi is an example of contradictions. It is the Blackest of the 
states of the Union, with a population that is nearly 40 percent 
African-American, according to U.S. Census figures. And yet — or rather 
because of this reality — Mississippi is the most conservative state, 
beating out Alabama and Louisiana in a 2015 Gallup poll. A recently 
enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows businesses and 
religious groups to refuse service to gay couples. Further, Gov. Bryant 
just signed the Church Protection Act, which allows guns in churches.

When asked what is wrong with Mississippi, particularly from the 
standpoint of white racism, experts point to white fear and paranoia. 
Simply stated, white folks in Mississippi have a fear of a Black planet. 
They wonder what will happen when the formerly enslaved take over — a 
question that whites have asked themselves since the days of slavery. 
And with Mississippi poised to become the first majority-Black state in 
coming years, white backlash against Black power will only worsen and 
intensify.

“A lot of this is historical. The thing that strikes me is how whites 
were vastly outnumbered, particularly in the Delta. That happened in 
Alabama but not as much as in Mississippi, where African-Americans 
vastly outnumbered whites,” Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern 
Poverty Law Center and editor-in-chief of the /Intelligence Report/, 
told /Atlanta Black Star./ “When the slaves were freed, whites feared 
they would be murdered, and white women would be raped, so it was a form 
of war. These whites oppressed Black people for quite some time, and 
they were afraid of what Black people would do when they get power,” 
said Potok, who is one of the country’s leading experts on extremism.

Potok also noted that Mississippi was the worst state during the civil 
rights movement. The Whites Citizens’ Councils, also known as the 
“white-collar Klan,” had its origins in Mississippi, which is where the 
resistance to desegregation began.

“Also, Mississippi had some of the most vicious legislators such as 
James Eastland, who had no problem using racial epithets,” Potok noted.

White fear leads to terrorism, Potok argues, which leads to 
defensiveness. He blames the way history is taught in the South as part 
of the problem.

“It is remarkable how many whites believe the Civil War had nothing to 
do with slavery, that tens of thousands of Blacks fought for the 
Confederacy, and that the races got along just fine,” he said, noting 
that many whites coming out of the state school system believe, “slavery 
was not a wonderful thing but its horrors were overstated.”

To make things worse, people such as former Gov. Haley Barbour “spent 
time palling around with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which was 
based on the Whites Citizens’ Councils,” Potok told /Atlanta Black 
Star./ He noted the progress that was made in taking down the 
Confederate flags in South Carolina and in Alabama, as well as the 
statue of Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis. But 
then, according to Potok, “the backlash against the Confederate flag led 
to backlash.”

According to the SPLC, since the Charleston massacre, there have been 
364 pro-Confederate flag rallies, the majority held in Deep South states 
such as Mississippi.

“I think we’re headed for a rough time because even as Mississippi is 
heading toward becoming a majority Black state, the country is headed 
toward a no-majority state, so it is part of the same process, but it is 
more extreme in Mississippi.”

“I think there’s a good reason Mississippi is crazy. The reason they’re 
so retrograde is there’s such a high percentage of African-Americans 
there,” said Edward Sebesta, co-author of /The/ /Confederate and 
Neo-Confederate Reader/. Sebesta, an expert on the Neo-Confederate 
movement, agrees with Potok about the problem with white supremacy in 
that state.

“That’s why the Council of Conservative Citizens is in Mississippi, 
because that’s where it could be the first majority African-American 
state. So I think there’s a siege mentality, and I think it’s very 
similar to the mentality about having Obama elected president. The 
reaction to that is the same thing, that this may be a multiracial 
society, and no one group would be in the cat bird’s seat,” he told 
/Atlanta Black Star./

Sebesta also emphasizes the role of sexuality in white supremacist 
sentiment.

“There is a big thing with the neo-Confederates about violent 
masculinity. They talk about having more hormones, and they’re Scottish, 
they’re violent and they’re impulsive, and all that stuff,” he said. 
“And it does relate to racial control and everything going back to 
slavery — and this idea that they have to be ready, to be violent and 
maintain the order they want, and it goes back…and the Ku Klux Klan is 
just one manifestation of that.”

Further, Sebesta connects the dots between white supremacist support for 
the Confederate flag and the anti-LGBT law in Mississippi: “I think the 
application to LGBT is the fact that they conceptualize dominance to 
white patriarchy — Christian men running the whole show and, of course, 
these are people who are not fitting into that sort of patriarchal role 
— LGBT,” Sebesta said. “Additionally, I think the thing is that white 
supremacy organizes itself around the control of sexuality. Because I 
think one of its primary needs is, of course, to make sure there’s the 
next generation of white people to support this. And without this rigid 
system of control, they always have this lurking fear that that 
generation won’t exist,” he added.

Meanwhile, the continued support among whites for the Mississippi state 
flag is telling. The flag, the only remaining state flag to incorporate 
the Confederate battle insignia, was adopted in 1894 to coincide with 
the enactment of Jim Crow segregation laws, as the /Jackson Free Press/ 
reported. This was also the case in states such as Alabama and Florida 
in those days. Similarly, states such as Georgia adopted the Confederate 
logo in their state flags in the 1950s, in defiance of desegregation and 
the U.S. Supreme Court decision in /Brown v. Board of Education./ In 
2001, Mississippi voters voiced their support for the flag in a 
nonbinding resolution, and this year state lawmakers determined there 
were not enough votes to remove the flag, meaning the flag will remain 
for the foreseeable future.

Aunjanue Ellis, an actress who starred in the film “The Help,” stars in 
ABC’s “Quantico” and co-stars in the upcoming Nat Turner film, “The 
Birth of a Nation,” wrote an op-ed in /Time/ calling for President Obama 
to remove the Mississippi flag from all federal grounds.

“If we do nothing, our nation’s Capitol will continue to bear the litter 
of the Confederacy and the KKK, and our moral battle, if not our 
physical battle, with the groups like ISIS will remain hollow,” said 
Ellis, a Mississippi native. “If we do nothing, we will not only 
continue to be complicit with Mississippiʼs terrorism and its 
manifestation in mass murderers like Dylann Roof, we will also be an 
accomplice.”

“The recent Mississippi flag vote is beyond the reaches of sanity and 
makes the case for a collective sociopathy of toxic narcissism and the 
critical absence of memory and empathy,” said John Sims, a Black artist 
who last year led an effort to burn and bury the Confederate flag 
throughout the South. “This vote indicates very powerfully the depth and 
counter-intuitive complexity of the Confederate flag as it relates to 
white supremacy, visual terrorism and African-American road to 
psychological independence,” he told /Atlanta Black Star./

“This is why I think is it necessary to confront the Confederate flag 
directly and unequivocally and demand its removal from governmental 
spaces and branding, with the exception of history and art 
presentations,” Sims said.


“With this in mind and with the realization that the Confederateflag is 
here to stay, I am advocating as I did last year with my project, 13 
FlagFunerals, for the annual burning and burying of the Confederate flag 
for Memorial Day. It is important to create an annual cathartic ritual 
to reflect on the pathological legacy of the symbols, language and 
culture of American racism and history of slavery, while honoring the 
valiant soldiers of social justice and freedom who came before us.”

According to Sims, “the Civil War continues, and there is much work to do.”

The efforts to keep the Confederate flag flying in Mississippi are more 
than mere symbolism, but rather part of a greater effort to kill Black 
power and keep African-Americans in their place. The effort by the 
state’s white, conservative Republican power structure to disempower the 
majority-Black population of Jackson — the state capital — is a case in 
point.

In 2013, attorney, human rights activist and Black nationalist Chokwe 
Lumumba 
<http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/02/26/activist-crusading-attorney-mayor-jackson-ms-chokwe-lumumba-dies-66/> 
was elected mayor of Jackson, with 87 percent of the vote.  Lumumba — 
who co-founded the Republic of New Afrika and the Malcolm X Grassroots 
Movement — was a lifelong advocate of Black self-determination and 
called for an independent Black nation in the Blackbelt South.  As 
mayor, he had an agenda of increasing investment in downtown Jackson, 
which had lost 12 percent of its population since 1980 due to white 
flight to the suburbs.  Further, he wanted to preserve the autonomy of 
the predominantly Black city — 80 percent Black and 27 percent in 
poverty — and prevent the type of emergency takeover and privatization 
measures that befell his native Detroit, as was reported on WBAI’s 
“Behind the News.”

Eight months after his ascendancy into office, Lumumba died.  Then, 
according to Kali Akuno of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and 
Cooperation Jackson — who worked with Lumumba — white racist, 
reactionary and Republican interests moved in, using the mayor’s death 
as an opportunity to control and privatize the city’s municipal assets, 
privatize the city’s assets, and cut off parts of the Black community 
from each other by creating Bantustans.

“We’re at a critical stage of the battle,” Akuno told WBAI.  “The 
Republican Party… racist to the core, have fundamentally gotten their 
act together and united on a program of basically just dismantling” 
Lumumba’s agenda.  Further, Akuno said these forces are “trying to 
advance in such a manner that another Chokwe or someone similar with 
same politics… cannot emerge to utilize the strength of the numbers of 
the Black community and the assets controlled by the city of Jackson — 
which they could potentially yield in a transformative process. They 
want to make sure that does not happen again.”

The Mississippi legislature passed a bill to create a regional authority 
to control the now-city owned Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International 
Airport and Hawkins Field Airport.  According to the /Clarion-Ledger/, 
the legislation — which awaits Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature — will 
increase the number of members of the airport authority from five to 
nine, and include appointees of the governor, lieutenant governor and 
interests from outside the city.  Black community activists regard this 
as a move to place control of the airports in the hands of the governor 
and white supremacist Republicans.

A documentary from the Coalition for Economic Justice — “The Assault on 
Black Political Power in Jackson, MS” — argues that the planned takeover 
of the airports will pave the way for economic development opportunities 
that will benefit the white establishment and not serve the economic 
interests of Black Jackson.  Further, the board of the Capitol Complex 
Improvement District — which will turn large sections of the city into 
an improvement district — will mirror the airport authority in terms of 
state control.

Now, people of good will in Jackson are fighting against the Confederate 
Spring, under the hashtags ‪‎ 
<https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/defeattheconfederatespring?source=feed_text&story_id=10153560769887960>#DefeatTheConfederateSpring 
and #OperationJacksonRising. The documentary points out that while many 
Black people have acquired political positions in Jackson, the right 
people were not always groomed or elected.  Some have internalized the 
white supremacist mindset, undermining the aspirations of the Black 
community as a result.  If the Black community can galvanize and elected 
officials are held accountable, in this Blackest area of the country, 
then Black power will be realized and serve as a template for the nation.

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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