I hope to one day go to Mississippi, home of the Delta Blues Museum, a handful of surviving Juke Joints, B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and the proverbial “crossed roads” of Highway 61 and Highway 49 where, as legend has it, Robert Johnson sold his soul to Satan in return for uncommon blues prowess. Clarksdale’s annual Juke Joint Festival is on my Bucket List. But I digress. This post is about bigotry, not blues.
Mississippi first etched itself into my psyche as a focal point of the American Civil Rights Movement, in which racist whites fought long and hard to thwart progress, seemingly denying the outcome of the American Civil War; terrorizing, murdering and blocking any and all effort to drag it, scratching and clawing into compliance with national law, including America’s founding documents. The international ink created by this Herculean struggle made northern kids like me, with no prior exposure to Mississippi other than learning how to spell it’s tongue-twisting name in grade school, come to associate the state with hatred of blacks, murder and intolerance. Oh, and the so-called southern “hospitality“.
As decades past and my horizons broadened, I overcame much of my bias against southerners as racists. I came to know southern whites who were open-minded and accepting of other cultures. History taught me the many complex reasons other than slavery that brought the Civil War (or the “War of Northern Aggression,” as it’s still sometimes called in the south). I traveled frequently to points south and became fond of many. America seemed to become less regional, more cosmopolitan (a mixed “blessing”), southern major market news anchors sounded very much like those in New York, Detroit and Chicago.
Racial equality lurched along. In my lifetime I’ve seen much progress. Inter-racial relationships, once necessarily hidden, are apparently accepted in many circles. My suburban neighborhood is integrated, and has been for over 2 decades. Current trends in national ads feature interracial couples and families; movies feature more leading roles for African Americans and are no longer limited only to African American-specific characters. While it’s far from universal and not without exception, it is, nevertheless, progress and seeing it, one can be lulled into a false sense of security regarding racial acceptance. A false sense, because we get reminders of past hatred…racial hate crimes, unfair treatment requiring legal action and occasionally, unsettling trend data.
For instance, in a report that I didn’t see on TV news or in my local newspaper, nearly half of Mississippi Republicans think interracial marriage should be illegal.
According to RawStory:
“A full 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans said they believe interracial marriage should be illegal, according to the left-leaning survey group Public Policy Polling. Only 40 percent said they thought it should remain legal, with the rest unsure.”
There are many ways one can disparage this data but even if one considers it merely anecdotal or at worst biased based on its source, it supports a broader widely made assertion that at the very least, racial equality in this country is far from a given. I think much of what we take as racial progress is illusion.
Given what we see at Tea Party rallies, I am not surprised by this data. I’d love to see a similar study with subjects on the left as well as control studies of mixed and independent voters–perhaps even one featuring a northern state– but doubt that we will. Even in the absence of such clarifying data, this is still troubling.
“Dare we dream of a golden day when the Bestial War shall rule no more. But instead—the gentle Prince in the Hall of Brotherly Love in the City of Peace…Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever.“