Mississippi is still burning

AFP/Getty Images news photo

“President” Pussygrabber appears with appointed Repugnican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith at a rally in Mississippi in October. He stands behind her not only literally but also figuratively.

Some who have read my rants against identity politics might conclude that I don’t take racism and sexism (and other bad -isms) seriously. I do, which is why I have a problem with identity politics, which too often devolves into anti-white racism and misandry, but right now we’re talking about white racism.

We’re talking about Repugnican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who on Tuesday will vie in a run-off election in Mississippi to finish out the U.S. Senate term of Repugnican Thad Cochran, who retired on April 1, citing health issues, and whose unfinished term ends in January 2021.

Upon Cochran’s resignation Hyde-Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Mississippi’s Repugnican governor in April, but she had to face the voters earlier this month in order to keep the seat until it comes up for election again in November 2020. Because no candidate won more than 50 percent in this month’s election, the run-off is on Tuesday.

First, Hyde-Smith drew attention to herself when she said of a political supporter, on video, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Mississippi had more lynchings than any other state, according to the NAACP, which puts Georgia at No. 2 and Texas at No. 3. Yet Hyde-Smith claimed that “this comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me.” It’s interesting how quickly wingnuts turn from casual victimizers to “the victimized.”

Then came the revelation from the Jackson Free Press, a Mississippi newspaper, that as a high-schooler Hyde-Smith had attended an all-white “segregation academy” whose yearbook was called The Rebel.

The newspaper reports:

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith attended and graduated from a segregation academy that was set up so that white parents could avoid having to send their children to schools with black students, a yearbook reveals.

A group photo in the 1975 edition of The Rebel — the Lawrence County Academy yearbook — illustrates the point. High-school cheerleaders smile at the camera as they lie on the ground in front of their pom-poms, fists supporting their heads. In the center, the mascot, dressed in what appears to be an outfit designed to mimic that of a Confederate general, offers a salute as she holds up a large Confederate flag.

[Here is the yearbook photo the newspaper published:

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith appears third from the right in a 1975 yearbook photo of cheerleaders at Lawrence County Academy. The mascot appears in the middle dressed as a Confederate colonel holding a rebel flag.

Apparently the high-schoolers called themselves “the rebels.” Nice.]

Third from the right on the ground is a sophomore girl with short hair, identified in the caption as Cindy Hyde.

The photo, and the recently appointed Republican senator’s attendance at one of the many private schools that was set up to bypass integration, adds historic context to comments she made in recent weeks about a “public hanging” that drew condemnations from across the political spectrum.

Lawrence County Academy opened in the small town of Monticello, Miss., about 60 miles south of Jackson, in 1970. That same year, another segregation school, Brookhaven Academy, opened in nearby Lincoln County. Years later, Hyde-Smith would send her daughter, Anna-Michael, to that academy.

Hyde-Smith graduated from Lawrence County Academy in 1977, meaning she would have already been in school elsewhere at the time the academy opened.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ordered public schools to desegregate in 1954 and again in 1955 to do so with “all deliberate speed,” Mississippi slow-walked the integration of its schools as long as possible, trying a variety of “school choice” schemes, state legislation and court cases to stop full integration, including arguing that white kids should not go to school with so-called “genetically inferior” black students. …

The [Lawrence County Academy] yearbook, provided to the Jackson Free Press by a former student who asked not to be named, is one of very few pieces of evidence still available that identify the segregation academy as the recently appointed senator’s alma mater.

While Hyde-Smith regularly touts her subsequent education at Copiah-Lincoln Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi, her high school has been conspicuously absent from the senator’s official statements, speeches and public biographies. Even her Facebook account suggests her education began with community college. …

Lawrence County Academy shut down in the late 1980s due to dwindling attendance — one of the now-defunct early [segregated] schools that sprang up in response to integration. Among those that survived, though, was Brookhaven Academy, where Hyde-Smith chose to send her daughter, Anna-Michael. …

As many have pointed out, Hyde-Smith might not have had a choice if her parents sent her to the segregation academy, but Hyde-Smith certainly knew what she was doing when she sent her daughter to a segregation academy.

And if there were no shame about having attended the segregation academy, then why does Hyde-Smith never divulge where she went to high school?

Tomorrow, “President” Pussygrabber, who has campaigned for Hyde-Smith before, is to headline two rallies for her in Mississippi.

Andd the Repugnicans complain that their party is so unfairly painted as racist and white supremacist.

No, it simply is that we judge you by the company that you keep.

One of the many reasons that I never vote for a Repugnican is that the party is the party of the former slave states that committed treason when they seceded after the election of Abraham Lincoln (my favorite U.S. president, I’ll add).

Of course, treason wasn’t the slave states’ largest crime; what they did to the black slaves — awful crimes against humanity — was their largest crime.

Any political candidate who associates himself or herself with the Repugnican Party cannot credibly dissociate himself or herself from the stances that the party has taken, which include white racism and white supremacism, anti-labor unionism and pro-plutocracy, misogyny and patriarchy, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-semitism, anti-environmentalism, etc., etc.

The Civil War never really ended, obviously, and we Northerners (literal and philosophical Northerners) must continue to fight it.

In the meantime, on Tuesday Hyde-Smith faces former Democrat Mike Espy, who is a black, and the Mississippi Clarion Ledger notes:

… National Democratic fundraising groups and leaders believe [that Espy] has a chance, especially after recent comments by Hyde-Smith talking about voter suppression and attending a “public hanging.”

They are pumping last-minute cash into the race, as prominent names such as Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker visited to drum up excitement for the former U.S. representative and U.S. agriculture secretary.

The last time a Democrat from Mississippi was elected to the Senate was 1982; the last time a black senator represented Mississippi was shortly after the Civil War.

An Espy win won’t give Democrats control in the Senate, but it could signal a larger political shift in the historically conservative South. Yet Espy often downplays the historic nature of his run.

“I’m proud of that but I’m not dwelling on it,” he said in another recent interview. “I want to be a senator for everyone. I’m trying to get votes from everyone, regardless of race, or age, or gender, or sexual orientation, or disability — or even party. I’m going to Republicans and Democrats talking about the issues that concern them.”

Despite a long-shot bid for any Democrat — Trump won Mississippi by 18 points in 2016 and has endorsed Hyde-Smith — Espy has generated several bursts of national attention and excitement on the campaign trail in recent weeks. Sometimes, they have been thanks to his opponent’s mistakes. …

Yes, but we’re still dealing with the South. In Florida, the purplest of the Southern states, Repugnican Ron DeSantis, running for governor against Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is black, infamously warned the state’s voters not to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum, and DeSantis still won (“won”?).

This Civil War has been a long, hard slog.

P.S. Peter Berkowitz is on the right, but I do agree with this take of his on identity politics (you knew that I couldn’t resist):

… Identity politics … directs students [and everyone else, I’d argue] to think of themselves as members of a race, class, or gender first and primarily, and then to define their virtue in terms of the degree of oppression that they believe the group with which they identify has suffered.

It demotes the individual rights shared equally by all that undergird American constitutional government, while distributing group rights based on its self-proclaimed hierarchy of grievances. It imperiously pronounces collective guilt and summarily rejects appeals. It nurtures a sense of victimhood in those it purports to protect and empower.

In the guise of fighting domination, it aims to impose its will on all. In these ways and more, identity politics trains students [and, again, everyone else] to turn up the heat of the tribalism that threatens to engulf the nation. …

The sister doctrine of intersectionality adds that all crimes and sins committed by the unjustly privileged oppressors — typically white men — are indissolubly connected while righteousness inheres exclusively in the oppressed, comprising people of color and women. … [I]dentity politics affirms that victims are neatly distinguishable from, morally superior to, and entitled to greater political power than, the villains. …

None of this is to minimize what historically oppressed groups — including mine (gay men) — have suffered throughout way-too-often-ugly American history. And I agree with only some of what Berkowitz has to say in his column to which I linked (his advocacy for home-schooling and for charter schools, for instance, I disagree with); and even though I agree with some of his points, which are logical and which jibe with my own observations and experiences, I do question his overall motives, frankly.

But this is to point out that it’s very, very easy, if we let them, for the victims (and the “victims” — that is, those who aren’t actually victimized today but who nonetheless cravenly falsely claim victimization for personal and political gain) to become the victimizers.

When we say that human beings shouldn’t be treated based upon their race or biological sex (or upon other demographics/traits), but upon the content of their character, we mean it or we don’t.

If we oppose oppression only when it’s our own group that’s being oppressed, then we are in the grip of toxic identity politics. And that is worlds apart from the true spirits of diversity and of liberty and justice for all.

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