“Mississippi Goddam!”

Hyde-Smith.confederate hat.jpg

The above exclamation has been making the rounds of social media following this Tuesday’s runoff election for U.S. Senate in Mississippi. It’s taken from a song written by the late singer-activist Nina Simone. It expresses her frustration with Mississippi in 1960s, a time when Black residents and civil rights workers were terrorized by whites who did not want Black people exercising their constitutional right to register to vote, and to vote in elections. They did not want Black children integrating public schools, Black families buying homes in all-white neighborhoods, or competing on an equal basis for jobs. Segregation ensured that whites would be in power and rule the state forever.

As a result of its rigid racism and its decades-long fight against change, Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the country. It ranks 48th in its economy compared to that of other states. In opportunity and infrastructure it ranks 49th. It ranks 45th in fiscal stability. Only 31 percent of its population has a college education, which underscores its ranking of 46th in education, and 47th in educating children from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

So it makes no sense that the majority of the state just elected a Repugnantthug woman, Cindy Hyde-Smith,  to the U.S. Senate, someone who agrees unquestioningly with the un-president’s positions on everything and votes accordingly. Someone who, only days before this week’s runoff election against the Black Democratic opponent Mike Espy, “joked” that if a friend invited her to a public hanging, she would be there in the first row.  For a state known for its violent opposition to racial integration, which often expressed itself in whites hanging Black people, that “joke” was decidedly unfunny.

But the publicity around the her comments did little to stop her from winning the U.S. Senate seat, by a vote of 53 percent to Espy’s 46 percent.

Espy would have been the better choice. The grandson of Thomas J. Huddleston Sr. who founded a Black fraternal society in Mississippi that operated the Afro-American Hospital, Espy earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C. He received his Juris Doctor from the Santa Clara University School of Law in California. He later worked in the Central Mississippi Legal Services. He served as the Assistant Secretary of State to the Mississippi Legal Services, and the Assistant Secretary of State to the Public Lands Division.

Espy was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Mississippi in 1986, the first Black person to represent the state there since Reconstruction. He served three more times. In 1993, Espy was appointed by President Clinton to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he served from 1993 to 1994. During his tenure he was accused of accepting gifts and misusing government “perks.” Although he was charged with receiving improper gifts in 1997, resulting in his resigning from the Department of Agriculture, he was acquitted of all charges in 1998.

Upon returning to the private sector, Espy advocated for poor people in Mississippi, and for Black farmers through his legal representation of the National Black Farmers Association.  He became a staff attorney at the national law firm of Morgan & Morgan.

Given his background, Espy might have brought about some much-needed reforms in Mississippi, which would have benefited all Mississippians, and raised the state’s lower-than-the-bottom status in just about everything. But despite his credentials, Espy still lost to Hyde-Smith, who was educated in the state’s segregated private “academies” rather than attend desegregated public schools with Black students. She, in turn, sent her daughter to such “academies.”

If there’s any remaining doubt that Hyde-Smith is a daughter of the Confederacy, take a look at her photo (above) in which she wears a Confederate soldier cap and proudly displays a rifle.

Then there are the Black Mississippians who voted for Hyde-Smith. One of them was, ironically, Charles Evers, brother of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who in 1963 was shot and killed in front of his own house by a white man,  a member of the White Citizens Council, the suit-and-tie version of the Ku Klux Klan.

Many voters, Black and white, claimed that they voted for Hyde-Smith as the “lesser of two evils.”  What is more “evil” than a U.S. Senator who embraces her Confederate “heritage” and the implied racism that goes with it?  All one can do is is shake one’s head and decide that there are things one can never understand. It’s just the way it  is in  Mississippi. Goddam.



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