I recently read an alarming text message wherein a prominent Jackson businessman responded to an inquiry regarding where he and other businessmen—white businessmen—were as allies in opposition to House Bill 1020, the bill intended to expand the Capital Complex Improvement District and place it under a separate government structure.
The most concerning part of his response was “I have issues of my own.” It was clear that he had “othered” himself and his issues from what is actually happening in Jackson and Hinds County.
My heart broke a little as my mind quickly remembered the words of Martin Niemöller regarding the Holocaust:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Then I said to myself, this is Mississippi and even professed allies must answer the question for themselves how they measure as a man in times of challenge and controversy. it is not my role or right to judge, but to continue to do what I can for my community. Community for me is not just where I reside; It is where we as a whole are able to fully live, breathe and have our very being.
HB 1020 Is Not About Safety
You see, I don’t live in Jackson. In fact, I do not even live in Hinds County. However, I am not ignorant of the reality that what happens in Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi, affects all of Mississippi.
Yes, I believe this “expansion” is a racial assault, but if you are in the metro area, it will affect you, too, regardless of your race. It will affect your ability to do business in Jackson and Hinds County.
If your trucks and employees are traversing through, it involves you. If your family is attending sporting events, including the rodeo and even the ballet, it touches you. If you are just being you, it influences you.
No, this bill is not about safety. That is the same narrative the Confederates asserted as a reason for their secession from the Union. Regarding their Lost Cause, Confederates said they seceded “to protect their rights, their homes.”
It’s the same narrative the Jackson-based White Citizens’ Council claimed when they opposed integration for decades after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. White Citizens Council chapters across the South and the U.S. worked diligently to perpetuate economic and social oppression of Black people, including schoolchildren.
Much like we see today, their actions supported the Mississippi Legislature forming the Sovereignty Commission, which conducted covert and unchallenged aggression against Black and allied white citizens.
This is all too familiar and should remind each of us that we all have a responsibility to oppose those in Mississippi who would return us to a state of apartheid.
Let us remember: “Then they came for me.”
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.