Skip to main content

Unless you're the churchgoing type, there's not much sense in driving through the Mississippi Delta on a Sunday morning. Folks tend to take the sabbath pretty seriously around these parts, and a visitor who so happens to be passing through is pretty well guaranteed to have one hell of a time trying to find a restaurant, store or museum that was open for business. At least, that was my experience when I crossed over the border from southern Arkansas to Mississippi last summer. Turns out that down in the Delta, Sunday is most certainly the lord's day and the only proper thing for a person to do on the lord's day is to get to worshipping. There was a pretty big part of me that felt the urge to attend a service at a good old fashioned, hole in the wall Southern Baptist or Methodist church, but I couldn't pick up the nerve to do it. Had there been one of those big non-denominational mega churches around I would have felt alright just showing up more or less as a voyeur because anonymity is kind of the whole point of a their existence. When your main chapel has stadium style seating that can hold several thousand congregants, it's entirely possible to go to church every Sunday for a year and never really have any contact with anybody else there. But if I were to roll up to tiny AME church of 100 people in rural Mississippi and go there for the express purpose of observing their religious rituals, I'd feel like I was intruding on something private and actually, you know, sacred. It's kind of like peeing in a swimming pool as opposed to peeing in an ocean; you're doing the same thing in both cases, but folks will only notice in one of them.

Instead of church crashing, I decided to head up the famous Highway 61 to Clarksdale, which is home to the Delta Blues Museum and the crossroads where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil for the ability to play the guitar better than any man alive. With a population of less than 18,000 people, no one would describe Clarksdale as a major metropolis, but in a state that only has three cities with populations in excess of 50,000, it's not exactly a small town either. Being located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, which was essentially the birthplace of sharecropping, it shouldn't come as a surprise that roughly 4 in 5 Clarksdale residents are black, nor should it shock you to find out that the city is beset by a catastrophic amount of poverty. With the exception of a few Indian Reservations, there is nowhere in all of America that is as poor as the Mississippi Delta, and Clarksdale does not buck that trend. At last count, more than 40% of the people in Clarksdale were living below the poverty line, a number that includes 57% of the city's children. With the amount of pain and want and destitution that still exists in places like Clarksdale, it's not too hard to understand why it is that the Blues began here.

After about an hour and a half of driving up Highway 61, the GPS on my phone told me to get off at the next exit and take South State St. to what it said was the center of downtown Clarksdale. The only problem was, when I got to where my phone told me to go, there wasn't anything there. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. There were the usual standbys of any medium sized town, like the local bank and a pharmacy and a small movie theater and a few restaurants and so on and so forth. It's just that there was nobody there to patronize them. I mean, it was a bloody ghost town. I must've driven down every street in the whole downtown area and seen no more than three people on the sidewalks and maybe half a dozen cars in the streets. Granted it was a Sunday in the most religious state in the country, but it wasn't like downtown Clarksdale looked like it was bustling cauldron of industry and commerce the other 6 days of week. Most of the windows and doors were shuttered or simply showcasing vacant real estate. There were entire blocks of storefronts that probably hadn't had a new coat of paint rolled on them in 25 years. I even drove through some parts of the city that made me feel more like I was in Fallujah or post-WWII Dresden rather than rural Mississippi. Some of the buildings weren't just in disrepair; they were demolished. I saw several buildings that had somehow had their roofs and sidewalk-facing walls ripped off, so you could look into the desolate interior of the structure like some depressing life-sized dollhouse.

In many ways it reminded me of the decay in Detroit, but it had a different feel to it because most of Detroit's vacant buildings were industrial or residential, while Clarksdale's were mainly commercial. It's one thing for a large city like Detroit to have dilapidated and stagnant neighborhoods spread out across the large area because they at least have a number of relatively unaffected hubs where business and commerce are still trudging along. In a town as small as Clarksdale, losing your downtown is tantamount to losing your identity. You can see the same narrative play out all across America in places like Welch, West Virginia or Steubenville, Ohio, where the city begins to rot from the inside out and a thriving, burgeoning community is transformed over the course of a couple generations into a shell of its former self. It's like heading into a hospice and looking into the rheumy eyes of some old soul in the final stages of stomach cancer, 80 lbs underweight and unable to hold solid food down, with nothing more than several feet of liver spotted skin hanging from his body to give you an idea of the man he used to be.

What's left of a building in Clarksdale, Mississippi

 

Once I had circled around and through the town a couple of times, I finally spotted a couple parked cars outside an old painted brick building near the Delta Blues Museum and decided to check it out. As it turned out, I had stopped at the Ground Zero Blues Club, a little restaurant, bar and music venue that was co-owned by Morgan Freeman, of all people. I drove by the place at least once or twice before I finally decided to check it out because, frankly, it didn't look like it was open for business. The raised concrete porch out in front of the club was filled with some of the rattiest looking mismatched couches and chairs you're ever likely to see and the windows all had the dirty, sticker-covered look of a old pony keg or corner store. If it hadn't of been for me driving by at the moment one of the employees came out the front door for a smoke I probably just would've driven on by.

It turns out that the rickety, distressed charm of the place was by design, as the club had only been up and running since 2001 and all of the refinements and additions that had been made to the place only served to remind you how old and beat up it was. One local store owner described the look as “manufactured authenticity,” which sums it up pretty nicely: it's a hole in the wall where there aren't actually any holes in the walls. Other than myself, the only other people in the club were some tourists from Australia who had come from halfway around the world to visit the Delta Blues Museum, but never got the memo that pretty much everything in the Mississippi Delta is closed on Sundays on account of Jesus. After I'd ordered and eaten some brisket, I got in my car and got out of downtown Clarksdale, not so much because I was itching to leave, but because I think I'd already been to the only establishment there that was open for business.

From Ground Zero, I headed east 60 or so miles until I got to Oxford, a town that is very much the negative image of Clarksdale. Like its neighbor to the west, Oxford has a population of a little over 18,000 people, but whereas 80% of Clarksdale is black, Oxford is roughly 75% white. Founded in 1837, the town of Oxford was so named in the hopes of reproducing the culture of learning and the prestige of its English namesake. These hopes were greatly helped a few years later when the state legislature voted to place what would become the University of Mississippi in Oxford, effectively cementing it as the academic hub of Mississippi, and in many respects the entire South, from that point forward. Clarksdale, on the other hand, is home to Coahoma Community College, but doesn't have any 4-year university to speak of. If a Clarksdale resident wants to get a bachelor's degree, he or she has to make the 90 minute round trip drive to Delta State University in Cleveland, MS every day. As a result, only 17.8% of Clarksdale residents have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, a far cry from the 54% of folks over in Oxford holding those degrees.  

With that being said, all the statistics and studies and surveys in the world are really no damn good when it comes to isolating the profound differences between these two cities. The only way to truly grasp the separate worlds that Clarksdale and Oxford inhabit is to simply exist in them. Honestly, you don't have to do any Google Scholar searches or watch an 8-part documentary series to get at the heart of the racial and cultural divide in Mississippi. Just go there and its starkness will find you. Instead of ramshackle housing and sun-scorched bermuda grass, all of the sudden you're surrounded by picturesque residential streets that are lined with Magnolias and Southern Red Oaks and Sugar Maples. Whereas the heart of Clarksdale was nothing but worn-out looking storefronts and ever present decrepitude, The Square in Oxford is a living, breathing preservation of past beauty. Everything about the place from the alabaster white Italianate elegance of the Lafayette County Courthouse in The Square's center to the collection of Victorian and 19th/20th Century Revival shops and restaurants that surround it was pretty in the sort of reassuring way that comes from making folks feel a shared past that they never really experienced. It might be a bit delusional of me, but I could almost swear that it even felt a couple of degrees cooler from the moment I stepped into Oxford. At least, it did before I decided to go over and check out the large monument sitting out front of the Courthouse.

In most respects, the monument in front of the Lafayette County Courthouse is fairly ordinary. Its overall design is tastefully muted, with a marble soldier in full uniform holding an upright rifle while standing atop an obelisk that gives it a height of 32 feet, which doesn't make it especially noteworthy for a memorial statue. No, what makes this particular piece of publicly displayed sculpture important is not how it was made, but who made it and what it depicts. The monument itself was commissioned in 1907 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group which began as a sort of ladies auxiliary for the United Confederate Veterans, a fraternal organization formed after the Civil War for former Confederate Soldiers and that would transform into the Sons of Confederate Veterans as its membership began to die off.

The confederate monument outside of Oxford's Lafayette County Courthouse

The United Daughters of the Confederacy had a number of different causes and functions in the post-war South, but the main one was essentially to cast the Confederate South as these valiant champions of a nobler way of life who had their personal and economic freedoms destroyed by their overbearing, borderline tyrannical neighbors to the North. Tracy Thompson does a phenomenal job in her book, The New Mind of the South, explaining the startlingly significant role the UDC has played in the formation of our collective conception of what happened during The Civil War through what was essentially a no-holds-barred propaganda campaign to rewrite history. The core message delivered by the Daughters was as simple as it was effective: the South did not under any circumstances fight during the Civil War to preserve slavery, and anything that challenges this assertion is nothing short of slander from vindictive Northerners who wish to sully the good name of the Confederacy. One way that the UDC conveyed this message was by placing a considerable amount of pressure on Southern politicians and textbook writers to only portray the history of the South and of the Confederacy as they understood it, which is to say they must, “revere the memory of those heroes in gray and to honor that unswerving devotion to principle which has made the confederate soldier the most majestic in history.”

Another way they spread their message was through the erection of hundreds of statues and memorials throughout the South which were designed to enhance the Confederate brand without much regard to its resemblance of the truth. The Confederate Monument in Lafayette Square is just one such memorial, but it illustrates the UDC's full-on assault on the truth better than most. At the base of the monument there are several inscriptions that are mainly there to glorify the Confederate cause. On one side, the inscription reads, “In memory of the patriotism of the Confederate Soldiers of Lafayette County – They gave their lives in a just and holy cause.” On another, the statue informs us that, “The Sons of Veterans unite in this justification of their fathers faith.” Look closely at the words that are being used here: patriotism, faith, a just and holy cause. This is not a remembrance of the dead so much as it is an attempt to posthumously martyr them. Within a year of statue's unveiling, the ground on which it stood would be soaked with the blood of an actual martyr, although the United Daughters of the Confederacy wouldn't see him as such.

In 1908, a local Oxford man who was locked up in the county jail sent a black man named Nelse Patton with a message to give to his wife, Mrs. Mattie McMillen, who was living with her three children in a small house north of town. What exactly happened when Mr. Patton reached the McMillen's isn't known, but according to the Lafayette County Press, McMillen instantly reached for her gun when Patton came to the door, as she was convinced that the black man meant to rape her. In the ensuing struggle that took place after McMillen drew her gun, Patton ended up allegedly killing the woman with a razor blade and fled the scene, anticipating the hell that was sure to await him should he be found. It being the Jim Crow South and all, the idea of a black man having to kill someone in self-defense because they tried to shoot a loaded gun at him was preposterous and the entire town of Oxford had no hesitation in dubbing Patton a “desperado,” a rapist and a cold-blooded killer. A lynch mob quickly sprung up among the townsfolk and, within no time the two sons of Oxford's Deputy Sheriff had pumped Patton full of buck shot and were hauling him off to jail.

By nightfall, over 2,000 Oxonians had gathered in the The Square and were demanding that vigilante justice be allowed to take its course. It was then that former US Senator and Oxford native W.V. Sullivan began to whip the crowd into a frenzy, eventually handing his pistol over to a local deputy and instructing him to “Shoot Patton,” and in doing so, “shoot to kill.” Soon thereafter, the mob broke into the jail and fired some 26 shots at Patton, killing him instantly. After murdering him, the mob proceeded to rip off all of Patton's clothes before castrating him, mutilating his corpse and hanging his lifeless body from a tree that stood within a few feet of the Confederate Monument that had been placed there the year before. When asked about his role in the lynching, former Senator Sullivan told reporters that, “I led the mob which lynched Nelse Patton, and I’m proud of it. I directed every movement of the mob and I did everything I could to see that he was lynched. Cut a white woman's throat! And a negro! Of course I wanted him lynched. I saw his body dangling from a tree this morning, and I'm glad of it.”

This is cold, hateful reality of what happens when the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans act united in a justification of their father's faith. It is not about States Rights or genteel Southern heroism. It is about racial superiority and the idea that the life of a black man or woman is intrinsically less valuable than that of their white counterparts. It is the ideological impetus that led the white population of Mississippi to lynch more black men, women and children from the beginning of Reconstruction to the end of the Civil Rights Era than any other state in the country. It is a faith that inspired Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens to exclaim in 1861 that, “Our new Government's...foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.” More than 150 years after those words were spoken, many in the South and across the entire country have yet to come to grips with the inconvenient truth that the Confederate dead gave their lives in battle so that Confederate slaves could lose their lives in bondage.

There is no debate to be had here. All of the lofty rhetoric and idealistic fervor can do nothing more than obscure the truth of what “The War Between the States” was really about. It is a truth that was outlined in the second paragraph of the State of Mississippi's Declaration of Secession in 1861 and it has only one interpretation:

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."

I don't give a damn how much Southern pride people have; the only way anybody's going to find ambiguity in that chunk of history is if they manufacture it themselves. Slavery was the alpha and the omega of the Southern economy and the Southern way of life and anyone who tries to tell you differently has spent way too much of their adolescence gleaning their knowledge of the South's history from Gone With the Wind and The Andy Griffith Show. If slavery and racial oppression were merely incidental, why was it that, just a few months after the Civil War was declared over, Mississippi became the first state in the country to enact new Black Codes designed to prevent African-American land ownership, prohibit interracial relations and make unemployment a jailable offense for black Mississippians? How do you explain away one-eighth laws and poll taxes? What rationalization can you have for separate schools and separate drinking fountains, for separate hospitals and separate railroad cars? The short answer is that you can't. And yet some do.

Before the Civil War, Mississippi was one of the wealthiest states in the nation and the crown jewel of the Southern economy. All across the Delta from down south in Natchez and Port Gibson to farther north in Vicksburg and Clarksdale, King Cotton was building its empire on the lash-scarred backs of black slaves, luxuriating in the joys of an economy that had divorced labor from profit and erecting hundreds of little Southern Fried Versailles's and Petit Trianon's while the men, women and children whom they claimed as property lived in squalor. It was a way of life predicated on the denial of freedom and the rejection of Christ's admonition that the two greatest commandments are to love thy god and to love thy neighbor as thyself. Therefore, when the Civil War was over and done with and the slaves had been emancipated, it was only natural that the economy of the South in general, and Mississippi in particular, would fold in upon itself.

Today, the winding banks of the Muddy Mississippi still serve as the scoliotic spine of the Deep South, but all of its wealth and prosperity have been supplanted by poverty and loss. The land that used to belong to the state's planter elite and which was once worked by slaves and later by sharecroppers, who in many ways still were slaves, is now either in the hands of big agribusiness or lies fallow. But, while the ownership of the land may have changed hands over the past 150 years, the ones toiling away without respite or reward have not. It is not by accident that Mississippi is both the poorest and the blackest state in America. No, this oppressive and racially charged poverty is but the latest iteration of a bigotry and a hate that have defined not just Mississippi, but also the South and our entire nation since its very founding. The words of Abraham Lincoln have not been heeded. All of the wealth that was piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil has not yet been sunk and, instead of paying for every drop of blood drawn with the lash with one drawn with the sword, we have spent 150 years creating deadlier and more insidious lashes. Mississippi, like much of America, has yet to learn the simple lesson that even spiritual debts carry interest. Those bondsmen that President Lincoln spoke of during his Second Inaugural may be long dead, but their progeny sure as shit aren't and the debt they were owed is about 150 years past due. Time to pay up.

Originally posted to Virally Suppressed on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 05:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, KosLit, and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I'm ashamed that such a deeply thoughtful and (39+ / 0-)

    informative diary is sitting here without a single comment.

    I'm going to ask someone I think has the ability to republish to Black Kos to do so.

    It certainly deserves to be seen and read by a whole lot more than the few who have done so.

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 09:02:57 PM PDT

  •  I came across one of these revisionist (24+ / 0-)

    He was disgusting.  But I still don't understand if he was trying to lie to me or he truly believed it. They have created a historical bubble that must be popped.  Slavery still exists in the DNA of Southern whites and paradoxically they are all Republicans now.

    The UDC types are evil, they know they lie.  I wonder how many white Southerners are just ignorant and how many know they lie.

    I think one word may be wrong "preserve" rather than "prevent" slavery.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action. UID: 9742

    by Shockwave on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 09:21:47 PM PDT

    •  I saw that too. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, swampyankee, howabout, suka

      In this section:

      history. The core message delivered by the Daughters was as simple as it was effective: the South did not under any circumstances fight during the Civil War to prevent slavery, and anything that challenges this assertion is nothing short of slander from vindictive Northerners who wish to sully the good name of the Confederacy.
      Well, as Shockwave said, it looks like you got the wrong word there.

      Cogito, ergo Democrata.

      by Ahianne on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 10:10:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  yes, i reread (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howabout, suka, Shockwave

      and reread this...i think the word should have been "preserve"

      If you don't know that evolution is a fact, we have nothing else to talk about.

      by oysterwitch on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 10:38:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  denial + self-interest = an ugly combination. (0+ / 0-)

      Same as with climate change denialism by Big Carbon.

      There's a particular kind of ugly, and a particular kind of evil, when it's up close and personal to the point where the self-interested denialist has to deny the very humanity of others who s/he can see and hear in the present.

      There's another particular kind of ugly and evil when the victims can't fight back: the victims of history such as the slaves, and the victims of the future such as those who will endure the mass dieoffs of climate catastrophe.

      The human species has got to overcome this evil or we are going to render ourselves extinct.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 07:28:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If you look into the fate of black farmers (26+ / 0-)

    soon after the Civil War ended, at first they did very well, better than white farmers who, of course, had little real knowledge about farming.  African-American farmers were soon starting to prosper and jealousy of their success and growing wealth drove quite a lot of the Jim Crow laws and lynchings that prevailed once union troops left.  It seems that MS would rather be poor and backward so long as whites dominate it.  

    The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Plato Love of money is the root of all evil. Jesus Conclusion: If money rules politics, it will be dominated by evil men lining their pockets, not yours.

    by monkeybrainpolitics on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 09:27:21 PM PDT

    •  bingo. as with that quote from the... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lao hong han, docreed2003

      .... Mississippi declaration of secession:

      "These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun."

      IF it's true that black people have superior capacity for farming, THEN it's also true that white people should have borne the natural consequence of their own relative incapacity, by accepting second-place roles in a Southern economy that would have been dominated by black farmers with free black employees and a realm of black prosperity.

      Those second-place roles for whites needn't have come with second-class citizenship.  There would have been more than adequate jobs to go around in areas such as manufacturing, selling, and maintaining farm machinery of whatever types were current at each stage in history.

      But no.  

      Instead of coexistence, there had to be domination, for the sake of the pure lazy greed of the entire class of white planters who wanted to live on the backs of others by treating them as things.  And make no mistake, that's exactly what it is: laziness combined with greed, a fatal combination every time, wrapped up in rationalizations, summing to the evil of treating persons as things.

      The evil of slavery is co-equal evil with genocide.

      These are America's Original Sins: genocide of First Nations peoples, and enslavement of African peoples.  But unlike the de-Nazification of post-WW2 Germany, America has not yet cleansed its culture of these evils.  We have the equivalent of a Nazi Holocaust in our past, and we have not yet faced the full dimension of what that means.

      That debt continues, the interest accumulates, and the consequences will play out until the day we are ready and willing to face up to this.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 07:41:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, beautifully written (16+ / 0-)

    I lived for a few years up the Arkansas side of Highway 61, but never got down to Clarksdale.

    Only was in Oxford one time, for an Arkansas/Ole Miss football game I had to cover. Lots of ghosts around Old Miss, and you don't have to listen hard to hear 'em.

    And you should have made it to some AME church for services. That's real churchifying.

    Any group with the word "Patriot" in its name, probably isn't.

    by Senor Unoball on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 09:48:04 PM PDT

  •  30 years (19+ / 0-)

    ago I drove down the Mississippi - from Mpls to New Orleans...or at least I tried. Once in Mississippi, you can no longer really get anywhere near the river, due to the vast rural areas and width. So - I meandered through those cotton fields and small, terribly sad towns. Railroad tracks divided the white from black side - painfully obvious by the fact the 'town', or all significant commerce and all nice housing was on one side, the other being filled with what can only be termed shacks. After Katrina I was able to go further - mucking out homes in the delta. I saw land deeds from reconstruction, signed with an X, but now just part of the mountain of personal ruin Katrina left in her wake.
    A painful history we have not healed.

  •  Racism is buried deeply in the marrow of the (15+ / 0-)

    bones of the Americas, both North and South, from Hudson Bay to Tierra del Fuego. Only in the United States is it celebrated in monuments to white men for killing other men to preserve slavery and racial domination. It is a strange and brutal knowing that permeates the whole culture, not just the South. The USA is a racists society and the status quo has been fighting back against justice for people of color since the end of the Civil War. I have watched the rise of Neoconfederates in America since the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Republicans kicked its rise into hyperdrive in 1980 taking Reagan's election as a symbol of the resurgence of the "New South." Unfortunately the "New South," has encompassed the "post racial," America in all fifty states and the "New South," id the same old "Jim Crow," South with a shiny new package.

     

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 02:32:27 AM PDT

  •  V S, you have already written some fine diaries, (8+ / 0-)

    but I think that so far this is your best. Beautiful, moving, convincing. Thanks for posting it here.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 07:13:37 AM PDT

  •  Excellent (4+ / 0-)

    diary.

    A couple of points:

    When it's said that Mississippi is the “most religious state in the country,” you, me and others must have completely different definitions of what the word “religious” means, because:  Any so-called “religion” or “religious person” who treats Blacks and other minorities the way they've been treated in Mississippi over the years is most definitely not anywhere remotely close to being "religious." Just because someone claims they are "religious" doesn't necessarily make it so.

    In fact, one of the many reasons for my personal aversion to any organized religious belief system is the sheer hypocrisy of alleged “religious” people in places that either tolerate or encourage bigotry and hatred. (It's not the only reason, but is one of many reasons.)

    My definition of a truly “religious” person would be someone who does not let preconceived notions about other people and things skew their ability to see the facts and truth;  who is able to see through the false concepts and images created about people and life and who can clearly see what it real and true not only about others but, most importantly, about themselves and how that skews their viewpoint. That is a true religious person, in my opinion.

    Perhaps it's because of the false “religion” and false religious practices of folks in many places...not just Mississippi, but elsewhere throughout the world, that people seem increasingly psychologically enslaved throughout, even if physical slavery is not as prevalent as it once was.

  •  Well written and so true (4+ / 0-)

    The reality is that the South has a horrible karmic legacy playing out, but even in the North, places like Detroit have similarly been abandoned.  Within productive cities there are pockets of racial segregation that create barriers to prosperity for the community as a whole.

    It's not about some slick preacher with nice white teeth telling you that "God intends prosperity."  The people have been duped, especially in the South.  Religion has worked in service to extend the oppression as in Clarksdale/Oxford.  The economy will be stagnant and worsening so long as large pockets of citizens are willfully excluded.

    Reaganomics raped the American worker & this depression is the result. When will we wake up & vote with our own financial interests?

    by phree on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 07:32:02 AM PDT

  •  i agree with your diary 100% and thank you. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, tobendaro, G2geek

    now my cynical comment. we have the power in our hands if we but exercise it. simply vote. if 90% of minorities, young voters and progressives vote we can turn the tide. but projections are that less than 35% of us will.

    And I am Kilrain of the 20th Maine. And I damn all gentlemen. Whose only worth is their father's name And the sweat of a workin' man Steve Earle - Dixieland

    by shigeru on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 08:48:18 AM PDT

  •  Poignant and timely. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oslyn7, mod2lib, G2geek

    I do not understand how we have not mustered the necessary opposition to eradicate or at least beat back the thought viruses of bigotry into the darkest corners of the deepest caves in the land, the entrances well-lit and guarded that they may be summarily disinfected should the viruses ever attempt to re-emerge.

    Memetics surely has prescriptions for such work, such as framing. I suspect, but admit that I do not adequately understand, that framing is key, that the language we use to discuss bigotry itself contributes to its perpetuation. I recall Chris Hedges once talking about state repression and saying something along the lines of: "I do not wish to speak in the language they give me." So it is, I believe, with racism. So a key is to take direction from folks like George Lakoff, educate and disseminate the language and the rest of the cocktail of anti-viral agents needed to combat this deadly social disease.

    Economic injustice is a key component of bigotry that affects hiring, wages, disciplinary actions, layoffs and firing. Neoliberal social attitudes and related laws and regulations and, perhaps most important, enforcement, are essential to bigotry, as economically vulnerable populations are most susceptible to public and private sector control. Therefore, the degree to which we pushback, contain and eventually kill neoliberalism, replacing it with economic policies and programs that establish right relations between people, the environment, and capital, directly impacts our efforts to address bigotry and the oppression of vulnerable segments of society, segments which collectively represent the majority, though we would not know it by the projected ideas, attitudes and ideas  of mainstream media & culture.

    The rising federal and state security and law enforcement apparatus is also essential to bigotry. Recent events have forced this fact out of the shadows. No one should doubt the threat this poses anymore. To call it CT should be universally recognized as calling it Completely True.

    If we have to stand hand-in-hand through rain, sleet, snow, ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, derechos, why, for the love of god, would we not do so? Why do we consider the day-to-day routines and requirements of our current lives more important than re-arranging them to be able to create the irresistible force to compel widespread progress to a just, sustainable society?

    In the words of Al Sharpton, speaking about the Civil Right movement and discrimination, "it was acceptable until we refused to accept it." Duh. We need to re-define what it means to refuse to accept it, because clearly the message is being rather effectively ignored.

    I don't understand and perhaps never will but our intransigence to collectively adopting, as progressives, the necessary attitudes and behaviors to step outside the mainstream culture, refuse to accept what today is, by all evidence, considered socially acceptable resistance to positive change, this continually disturbs me deeply.

    I've never left a blank space on a ballot... but I will not vote for someone [who vows] to spy on me. I will not do it. - dclawyer06

    Trust, but verify. - Reagan
    Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

    by Words In Action on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 09:09:42 AM PDT

  •  Just the mention of some of these towns (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GayHillbilly, mod2lib, G2geek

    conjures up for me a dark feeling borne of the time when Mississippi place names only appeared in the national media as  a result of new racial atrocities or the despicable grandstanding of segregationist officials.

    Play chess for the Kossacks on Chess.com. Join the site, then the group at http://www.chess.com/groups/view/kossacks.

    by rhutcheson on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 10:55:16 AM PDT

  •  Well done! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, G2geek

    My family on one side hails from Mississippi, and I'm sure the whites were just like that.

    Of course, I'm also sure we have POC as relatives, since the family owned slaves back then, but that's not talked about. When I try to bring it up, they change the subject. Personally, I would like to meet my relatives that are POC, but how to find them is the problem.



    Women create the entire labor force.
    ---------------------------------------------
    Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 11:43:16 AM PDT

    •  There are registries, I would think. (0+ / 0-)

      Might catalog people by DNA, surname, residence of ancestors, and so on.

      "Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come." --Rumi

      by karmsy on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 04:27:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Outstanding. Thanks for this. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hotheadCA, G2geek

    "To take another person's life from the bench is no better than to take another person's life from the street"

    by commonmass on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 01:23:28 PM PDT

  •  Wow. Work of art! <3 (n/t) (0+ / 0-)

    OWS (Occupy Pittsburgh) - REAL MOVEMENT of, by, for AND from the people!

    by waiting for lefty on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 02:18:02 PM PDT

  •  Great essay, thanks. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, G2geek

    What you didn't discuss much, is the mechanics of racial divides in cities. The refusal to extend mortgages and credit, in, ahem, certain parts of town. The misguided "redevelopment" schemes. All of which, besides personal, day-to-day economic discrimination against residents, go to create blight and stagnation in inner cities. Children coming up in these environments, internalize messages about how much they're valued, how highly they rate. And the cycle perpetuates.

    "Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come." --Rumi

    by karmsy on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 04:21:24 PM PDT

  •  Excellent essay, virally! (0+ / 0-)

    You put a great deal of work into this post, that's plain. It's a fine diary that absolutely deserves its promotion to "Community Spotlight."

    I really despair of the Deep South. When will they ever learn?

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 06:28:58 PM PDT

  •  Excellent essay . . . now for my comments (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ChuckInReno, docreed2003

    I was born in Wilkinson County, MS, in 1944.  

    My father was from Shaw, Bolivar County, in the middle of the Delta.  He was the son of Swiss emigrants who -- somehow -- made their way to Shaw where my paternal grandfather operated a bakery shop.

    My mother's family has been in the country since well before the Revolution.  They were wealthy South Carolina planters.  In the early 1800's three brothers, their families, and 100 slaves trekked to Wilkinson County -- that's how I came to be from there.

    It's a long story -- I was last in Mississippi in the summer of 1961 -- father's business moved us to East Tennessee, I headed for college then 30 years in the Army.

    As I was growing up in Wilkinson County -- the town of Centreville, to be exact -- we made frequent visits to my father's hometown of Shaw.  In 1961, the Delta was a thriving place -- every town and village was filled with stores, people, mom-and-pop businesses of every kind.  Sharecropping -- slavery by another name -- was king, cotton was picked by hand.

    My parents died in Knoxville, TN, in 2005 and 2007.  In 2008, I took their ashes to Shaw for burial in my father's family cemetery plot.  I drove from Knoxville, through Memphis, down 61, to Shaw then on through Vicksburg, Natchez, and Woodville to Centreville.

    I could not believe my eyes after I passed through Tunica, home of the casinos and the Japanese automobile factories.  The towns where my father had friends and where we would stop to visit looked like bombed-out Afghan villages -- Iuca, Clarksdale, Alligator, Shaw, Mound Bayou, Boyle, Merigold, Rolling Fork, Leland, Arcola, Hollandale.  In fact, after leaving 61 to drive through "downtown" Leland in search of an old grocery that had belonged to a friend of my grandfather, I sat in my truck by the side of the road and cried.

    I've almost finished reading "Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II," by Douglas Blackmon.  This book should be required reading in every American high school because it provides clear insight into why today's black Americans cannot trust the cops, elected officials, or "the system."

    Thanks for the diary.

    Oh, one minor correction:  You identify the crossroads of 61 and 49 in Clarksdale as the place where Robert Johnson "allegedly" met the Devil.  No "allegedly" about it --my father knew Honey Boy Edwards and he told my father that Robert Johnson sho' 'nuff sold his soul to the Devil there at The Crossroads.

  •  What a wonderful essay (0+ / 0-)

    I learned something here! Reading through this wonderful piece, I almost feel like I'm reading a National Geographic.

    This was beautiful. Thank you!

    -5.38, -2.97
    The NRA doesn't represent the interests of gun owners. So why are you still a member?

    by ChuckInReno on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 10:45:17 PM PDT

  •  Confederate monument reminds me of Wilmington, NC (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AuroraDawn

    re:  The confederate monument outside of Oxford's Lafayette County Courthouse

    I visited my dad's home town (Wilmington, NC) and was stunned to see the downtown littered with confederate monuments as though more than a century had not passed.

    Wilmington is infamous for being the only US municipality where a coup d'etat was carried out. The Fusion Party, supported by blacks and whites, ran City Hall and was cleaning out corruption. The ancient powers allied with the Klan and militarily overthrew the elected government in the late 1890s and then went on a spree wantonly killing black people. The editor of the black newspaper barely got away but his printing press and news building were destroyed by fire.

    Thanks for well-written history of Mississippi.

  •  Extremely well-written. (0+ / 0-)

    I only wish I had come across it sooner.

    I don't give a damn how much Southern pride people have; the only way anybody's going to find ambiguity in that chunk of history is if they manufacture it themselves. Slavery was the alpha and the omega of the Southern economy and the Southern way of life and anyone who tries to tell you differently has spent way too much of their adolescence gleaning their knowledge of the South's history from Gone With the Wind and The Andy Griffith Show.
    I have witnessed this sort of cognitive dissonance in my own family. I vividly remember a conversation with a distant cousin in Georgia, many years back, over the causes of the Civil War. Her denial that it had anything to do with slavery. I requested that she name, one-by-one, the States' Rights the North was attempting to deprive our ancestors of --  she couldn't. And when she couldn't, she became both frustrated and angry - very angry.

    Yet it never once occurred to her that the reason she was unable to name these non-slave related States' Rights, might be because they are mythical.

    There is a kernel of truth in almost every lie. The kernel of truth in the "States' Rights" lie is this:

    For the North the Civil War wasn't initially about abolition. Most Northerners had no interest in abolition and were indifferent to the plight of Southern slaves. Several Northern states had actually been slave states just decades prior. The war, for the North, was about the preservation of our country, the preservation of the Union.

    The myth of States' Rights was concocted in the South. The shocking thing, to my mind, at least, is that Northerners have, by and large, allowed Southern revisionists to get away with rewriting history. I have actually heard many fellow Yankees (and I'm not talking about uneducated white supremacists, either) spout the line: "It wasn't about slavery. The war was about States' Rights."

    Every time I hear that line, I can't help but think that somewhere the spirit of Jefferson Davis is smiling.

    My Confederate ancestors may have been brave in a physical sense, and they were unquestionably loyal to their states of origin, but the cause they fought for was unjust. It was also treasonous. That last bit tends to get overlooked by most CSA descendants - past and present. If attempting to destroy your country by splitting it in two doesn't count as treason, then I don't know what does. Far from being unkind to Confederate veterans, the government was actually remarkably lenient. My ancestor received a pension. How many governments would grant pensions to individuals who had once fought to "free" themselves from the very same government? Not many.

    As for rising inequality, many on the right don’t even think it’s a problem...Conservatives seem to believe that the rich will work harder if we give them more, and the poor will work harder if we give them less ~ E.J. Dionne

    by AuroraDawn on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 05:14:56 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site