MFP publisher and co-founder Kimberly Griffin encourages all Mississippians to face our turbulent history and keep telling the truth to make sure we don’t repeat the past. Today, Mississippi seems to take two steps forward, and one step back. But moving forward incrementally is still progress. Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

How Progress Works: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

It will come as no surprise that I’m a current-events junkie who typically consumes national and local news voraciously. These days, so many of us are fighting what seems like losing battles regarding racial equity and general human decency. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say we are on the precipice of what feels like World War III as we watch Russia invade Ukraine, propelling us into what feels like our 20th refugee crisis in many years. 

I’m amazed as parents scream in school-board meetings that their children will feel bad about themselves if they read about civil rights and real history. Never mind that these same children are walking around with a computer in their pockets, talking to God knows who about God knows what. Reading about the Tougaloo Nine would be the least of my concerns in today’s parenting landmine.

a photo of Black Democratic lawmakers standing on the steps of the Capitol
Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, center, and other members of the House Democratic Caucus express their objections to the body passing Senate Bill 2113, to prohibit the teaching of “critical race theory,” on the steps of the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Thursday, March 3, 2022. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

I can’t watch or read much national news these days because it’s too hard. I expected some relief after our last presidential administration, which widened divides and encouraged dangerous rhetoric and actions, particularly against folks who look like me. But I’m not feeling that relief, yet. I can’t read some of my favorite authors right now because, quite frankly, the subject matter is too hard, and I’m about at the end of my rope with hard things. I’ve resorted to reading fluffy fiction with happy endings and watching trash TV. 

Donna said something during our most recent MFP Live where we talked with Elaine Talbott of PFLAG Jackson and CJ Winship, a former police officer and current law student who wrote an MFP Voices column for us about the Ridgeland’s mayor’s attempts to withhold public library funds over LGBTQ books in the Ridgeland library collection. Donna said it seems like we’re going backward. She’s right. It feels like we are going backward, particularly for folks like us who stare down societal injustices every day.

Elaine Talbott, board member of PFLAG Jackson, and CJ Winship, a law student, former police officer and member of the LGBTQ+ community, join Donna Ladd and Kimberly Griffin to discuss the impact that LGBTQ+ representation in the Ridgeland Public Library.

The truth is that things are better, and we are going backward.  For every two steps forward, we take one step back, and while I don’t like that truth, I’m learning that’s how progress works. 

When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine my cousin and her “friend” introducing themselves as a couple, let alone being legally married. Life is better for Black folks and gay folks and many marginalized people, but it’s still tough, and there’s so much work to do. 

Our team will keep doing the work of exposing both causes and solutions for Mississippi’s challenges knowing that with every truth we tell, Mississippi and American society might take a few steps back. Every Mississippi story told is progress even when it doesn’t feel like it. I’ll hold onto that fact and for hope that we continue to move forward and away from the historic discrimination and mistreatment that so many faced. With your support, we’ll keep facing that history and telling the truth about it to ensure that we do not return to those times and practices.  

I hope you’ll do the same.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.


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