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July 10, 2003

The Land That Time Forgot

Mississippi has once again managed to give itself another black eye. The shooting incident at the Locheed Martin plant is the most recent in a long history of black eyes, and it comes too close on the heels of the Trent Lott comments regarding Strom Thurmond. It isn't the fact that a person went on a shooting rampage that hurts Mississippi so much, they are becoming a dime a dozen in our country. Instead it is the possible motivation behind the shootings.

Doug Williams, the apparent shooter, does not seem to be the most culturally sensitive person. According to the people who knew him, he was an angry guy (who had taken anger management courses, but I guess they didn't take) who did not like blacks. Now I am not naive enough to believe that racism is not present in all of the states, as well as in all social classes and among all races, but Mississippi always seems to lead the nation is controversies dealing with the race issue.

I lived in Meridian, MS for three years, and while I was not too optimistic about the move at the time, I found that my stay there was much more enjoyable than what I was expecting. There are a lot of nice, non-racist people who inhabit the state, but unfortunately they do not EVER seem to make the news. People in MS are not all backass, and are actually quite educated (at least in parts). Meridian is actually the medical hub for 90 miles in any direction, having 3 hospitals capable of performing most any type of surgery necessary, but most people will never know that. Instead they will continue to be seen as the state who is last in education and among the poorest in the nation. Of course they do lead in a couple of categories including having the most teenage mothers and the greatest reputation for being racially divided.

I am from NC, and upon my arrival in MS one person actually called me a Yankee. This ought to give you some idea where some of these people are in their awareness that it is the year 2003. Again, soon after my relocation to Meridian, another person in his mid-50's asked if NC was planning to seceed with MS. WTF??? I told him I didn't think so, but did it in a tone that might keep me safe if he decided to go on a rampage himself. When the state voted on getting a new flag and possibly removing the Confederate flag from it, my wife was told by an old woman at the voting booth, "You know what to do," implying that hell should freeze before they allowed their precious flag to be changed.

Perhaps the only hope for the state to change its reputation is for all the old people to die and start all over again. Until then, I don't think they will realize that we lost the civil war...........and I sure as hell am not going to be the one to tell them.

Posted by Woundwort at July 10, 2003 09:04 AM | TrackBack
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You make several trenchant observations. I am a Yankee (by way of Michigan) living in Mississippi. The way Mississippi works is still completely alien to me after five years here; how can a state that spends 62% of its budget on education lead the nation in illiteracy?

Answer: it's Mississippi. And it's only going to get worse.

Posted by: Scipio at July 10, 2003 09:36 AM

I agree, it may only get worse, and I hate that because I know not everyone is like that in MS, but public changes must be made for the rest of the nation to look at that state differently. Where do you live in MS?

Posted by: Woundwort at July 10, 2003 09:41 AM

I can hardly see how Mississippi has given itself a black eye over this shooting incident. I will assume that you are alluding to the local sheriff's attempts to dissuade the mass media from stereotyping the incident as racial violence prematurely. Stories such as Woundwart's only feed that stereotype needlessly. Perhaps some of you who don't "get" the local culture should read some of the local history and how it has been and continues to be affected by the civil war. Compare the fortunes of South Carolina and Mississippi with a non-Confederate state and notice the change in economic status over the last century and a half. You should notice a reversal of furtune decidedly in favor of the Union state. Rather than pigeon-holing the people of Mississippi over this unfortunate incident try looking closely at the individuals and companies involved in the incident and what they may have done to provoke or prevent this tragedy. I doubt you will come to the same generalization you have started with here.

Posted by: robert at July 10, 2003 11:19 AM

Well, being from Wilson, I was always told that anyone north of elm city was a yankee.

Posted by: oceanguy at July 10, 2003 11:25 AM

According to the article, 8 out of the 14 victims were Black.

Presumably, the rest were White (6/14) or else the article would have mentioned it.

If race matters, then the man ought to be congratulated for achieving good diversity in his selection of victims.

Sure, Blacks are slightly overrepresented in the pool of victims, relative to the state's 40% Black, 60% White population. If the plant's work force mirrored the general population, then the ratio of Black to White victims ought to have been reversed, 6:8. Clearly, this requires investigation by DOJ Civil Rights.

I would submit to you that if the facts as known hold up, then only two of the killings were actual race related hate crimes. Otherwise, the brutal mass murder was racially proportionate, and quite in line with constitutional guidelines.

Removing the rather cynical tongue from my cheek, such is the absurd logic to which we are reduced, when race is the touchstone and a primary consideration of our laws.

Posted by: Omnibus Bill at July 10, 2003 11:38 AM

Placing the cynical tongue back in cheek, I believe that the shooter was simply applying the doctrine of affirmative action in selecting victims, thereby increasing the ratio of black/white in this tragedy. Maybe the Supreme Court could tell us whether his method is legal.

Posted by: Mojomark at July 10, 2003 01:16 PM

Mojomark, I thought about saying that, but couldn't quite bring myself to do it. Sure, we have biological differences related to our skin color and the little local mechanisms of genetics and evolution... but to give these differences legal import galls me. The longer I spend practicing civil rights law, the more I'm convinced that taking any legal notice of race is sheer poison. (Except in cases of identifiable discrimination, where the remedy has to be tailored to fix a discrete act (or series of discrete acts) of discrimination. Other than that, I have increasingly little use for the social concept of race.

Posted by: Omnibus Bill at July 10, 2003 02:12 PM

Robert, no, I was not "alluding to the local sheriff's attempts to dissuade the mass media from stereotyping the incident as racial violence prematurely," instead commenting on the fact that the shooter did have a reported hatred of blacks. I have "gotten" the local culture and heard numerous speeches on how it continues to be affected by the Civil War, and while I am not arguing that, I find it hard to believe that you can argue that MS is behind the times in a number of ways. The high school in the town I lived in in MS for 3 years still has 2 seperate proms, and while they are not labeled as being the "white prom" and the "black prom" that is exactly what they are. MS can cry about the Civil War all it wants to, but there are plenty of things that state could do to keep it from being the rest of the world's whipping boy, and I would like nothing better than to see that happen, but I don't see any signs that it is coming on the horizon. My post, of which you said "only feeds that stereotype needlessly," was obviously not read the way I meant for it to be. Did you read that I said that the state was not what I was expecting, and that my experience was much better than what I was thinking it would be? The fact is that the stereotype does exist and the other 49 states only hear about MS in the national news when something race related occurs there. That is what MS needs to work to change. Don't expect the rest of the nation to change its perception without some effort from the state.

Posted by: Woundwort at July 10, 2003 02:32 PM

Omnibus Bill, you said "I would submit to you that if the facts as known hold up, then only two of the killings were actual race related hate crimes." Fine, I will agree with you, but isn't 2 race related crimes 2 too many? So what if he killed some white people who got in his way, the fact that his motivation was race related is exactly my point. These are the only stories that ever seem to make it to the national news out of MS.

Posted by: Woundwort at July 10, 2003 02:34 PM

Woundwort, I agree. Any racial hatred is too much, as is any segregation.

But tell you what -- go try to take away the self-segregated black prom from an Augusta, Georgia high school, as the Department of Education recently attempted to do. You will find you have kicked over a hornet's nest, and it won't be the White community coming after you.

Try to take away the self-segregated black graduation ceremonies at UNC or NC State, or UNC's perpetually Black homecoming King & Queen.

Try to stop the Blacks only scholarships, or shut Blacks & Hispanics only dorms at Michigan.

As long as it's fair to dole out benefits based on the race of the recipient, and as long as self-segregation is not only allowed but state sanctioned, I will have major problems with state efforts aimed at stamping out discrimination. "Benevolent discrimination" is just fine, but "invidious" discrimination isn't. The only difference between the two, of course, is whose ox gets gored.

Recently, David Horowitz has been going on and on about a murder trial in Wichita that has received zero national attention. Two black teens went on a week long crime spree, torture murdering four White youths because they are White. Nothing gets said about that... but Cletus the Crackpot, who hates Black people, among other folks, goes and shoots a mixed bunch of folks, and we're only worried about the fact he shot Black people?

What's going on here? The fact that you seem to have taken my thoroughly sardonic post seriously tells me how warped the entire dialogue about race has become.

Either all racial discrimination is wrong as a moral matter, or it isn't. And if it isn't all wrong as a moral matter, then who are we to judge how much is too much?

I'd submit to you that the shooting of 14 human beings is the real hate crime here; the fact that the shooter hated Blacks, among other people, is almost irrelevant next to the larger fact that he hates people.

I am increasingly growing tired of efforts to distinguish "good" racial discrimination from "bad" racial discrimination. The whole business is a load of rot, and the question turns entirely on who happens to be running the court where the question is asked. That isn't morals, or right, or wrong; it's mere chance, and a racial spoils system.

Did you really think I was seriously pleased about the generally racially proportional distribution of the shootings? Sheesh. Maybe I'd better get the sarcastic wit sharpened... it's getting to be a blunt instrument.

Posted by: Omnibus Bill at July 10, 2003 09:32 PM

Looking at the following from the linked CNN article calls into question why anyone would think it was a hate crime based on the preliminary reports. Random is random.

"Williams' family members thought he was being targeted for the class. Sollie said that although Lockheed said the training is mandatory, employees are selected for the class at random and "it was his turn to go."

"It's my understanding," Sollie said, that Williams wasn't pleased that he had to attend the training.

Williams suddenly left the 13-person class without speaking and went to his truck to arm himself, Sollie said. Williams returned to the meeting and opened fire, hitting several workers in the room before proceeding through the rest of the plant, shooting employees, Sollie said. "

Nothing in that should lead one to believe that it might have been racially motivated. Perhaps it was only because it happened in Mississippi that media moles though it wise to follow that line of intrique; in other words: prejudiced thinking.

Earlier in the CNN article they begin with some background history that only came to light 36 hours after the incident and was most likely the result of a predicated inquiry that it was racially motivated. Again, the immediate facts did not hint at such a motive, but speculation and an investigation to prove the humch did turn up evidence later. The State of Mississippi could hardly be implicated in a cover up of that.

Posted by: robert at July 10, 2003 11:20 PM

Woundwort- I'm in Hattiesburg.

Posted by: Scipio at July 11, 2003 09:35 AM

I wonder why the Black serial rapist-murderer from Baton Rouge isn't talked about as a perpetrator of a hate crime. After all, every one of his victims was White. The possibility of a racial angle hasn't even been mentioned...

I know we were looking for an angry White male in that case, as we were in the Beltway Sniper case...

Posted by: Omnibus Bill at July 11, 2003 10:51 AM

Omnibus Bill, no, I didn't think you were seriously pleased about the racial diversity present in the victims of the shooter. Apparently my sarcastic wit needs some sharpening as well. I am assuming that each of us would have recognized that in the other's comments had we been talking face to face rather than in the comment section of the blog. I assume that most people are not pleased with any killings.

I agree that there are many examples of reverse discrimination, like those you mentioned, including the black and white prom kings and queens and black scholarships. But those scholarships are available to whites as well at historically Black colleges as "minority scholarships" so I don't have a problem with it. I don't care if Blacks want their own proms and/or graduations, that is there choice, and is most likely done so in an effort to have something of their own in a society that traditionally gives perks to the majority culture. Those things just don't bother me. I don't care. What would bother me is if they made the statement, "I hate White people and therefore want to kill them." That is where I draw the line, and that is my problem with the killings in MS. The guy who did the shooting had a history of hating Blacks. That is my argument, not the other things that you mentioned. And what I hate for the state of MS, as I mentioned in the post is that the people living there continue to be viewed as extremely prejudiced, even though that is NOT true of VAST majority of folks living there. That is all the post was meant to suggest. I would like for some positive news to come out of there so that the state can begin to get a better reputation than the one they currently have.

Posted by: Woundwort at July 13, 2003 01:19 PM

Robert, I agree, it may not have been a hate crime, but more (like Omnibus Bill stated) that the guy had real problems and simply hated people. But the news media was very quick to point out that the guy had a history of hating Blacks, and I hate that for the state of MS, because they continue to be stereotyped to the rest of the country. I am sure that many people read that story across the nation and thought, "Not a surprise to see that in MS."

Scipio, visited there several times, stopping at Southern MS on a number of occasions. Not to far from Meridian where I was for those 3 years.

Posted by: Woundwort at July 13, 2003 01:22 PM

You know any Staffords or Holloways in Hattiesburg, Scipio? My father's family is all through that area.

Posted by: bigwig at July 14, 2003 01:35 AM

To the rest of the world, a Yankee is someone from the US.
To people from the US, a Yankee is someone from North of the Mason Dixon line.
To people from North of the Mason Dixon line, a Yankee is someone from New England.
To people from New England, a Yankee is someone from Connecticut.
To people from Connecticut, a Yankee is someone from Bridgeport.
To people from Bridgeport, a Yankee is someone who pours Maple Syrup on his oatmeal.

Posted by: triticale at July 15, 2003 11:33 PM
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