By Robert A. Vella

Mississippi’s state flower is the magnolia.  It is as white as the state’s politics.  But, Mississippi’s history has been stained by episodes of darkness few other states can match.  The University of Missouri at Kansas City documented 581 lynchings in Mississippi, of which 539 were black victims, from 1882 to 1968.  It’s the highest number of all U.S. states for that time period.  For comparison, the figures for neighboring Alabama are 347 and 299 respectively.

One might think that the legacy of such a disturbing past would make politicians and prominent leaders wary of appealing to latent racial animus among the populace.  After all, leaders are expected to be responsible people of high moral character.  Mississippi’s politics, however, are more red than white – red, as in far-right Republican conservatism led by President Trump.  That redness is a volatile mix of anti-democracy authoritarianism, anti-government libertarianism, anti-secular Christian fundamentalism, and anti-ethnic xenophobia.  Such deep political redness leaves no room for morality ethics, or personal responsibility.

In 10 days, Mississippi will hold a special runoff election for its U.S. Senate seat vacated by retired senator Thad Cochran.  The contest pits Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith (who was appointed to that seat) versus Democratic challenger Mike Espy.  Like the Alabama race a year ago which saw Democrat Doug Jones upset the highly controversial Republican Roy Moore, Mississippians will have a similar opportunity to express themselves.

And, like the ex-Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Hyde-Smith is embracing right-wing extremism with great passion.  From:  Mississippi GOP Sen. Hyde-Smith calls voter suppression ‘great idea.’ Campaign: ‘Obviously’ joking.

A video surfaced Thursday of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi saying it might be a “great idea” to make it harder for some people to vote, and her campaign quickly responded that she was “obviously” joking.

Hyde-Smith, who is in a runoff against Democrat Mike Espy on Nov. 27, made the remark at a campaign stop in Starkville, Mississippi, on Nov. 3. It was posted to Twitter on Thursday by Lamar Smith Jr., publisher of The Bayou Brief. Smith earlier this week posted video of Hyde-Smith making a comment on Nov. 2 about a “public hanging” that started a controversy.

“And then they remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who … maybe we don’t want to vote,” Hyde-Smith is heard saying. “Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”


The episode comes after that first controversial video was posted to Twitter on Sunday. In that video, Hyde-Smith is heard saying during a campaign stop in Tupelo on Nov. 2 that if the man who was next to her, later identified as a local rancher, “invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Critics said the comment had a racial connotation in the context of Mississippi’s history of lynching. Hyde-Smith said in a statement soon after the remark was posted that she “referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement” and “used an exaggerated expression of regard.”

Further to the east, another story about racism in America is making headlines.  From:  Authorities find rocket launcher, pipe bombs during raid on Florida white supremacist gangs

Nearly 40 members of two white supremacist gangs in Florida were arrested as the result of a massive drug trafficking sting, authorities announced this week.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida announced Thursday that 39 members of the Unforgiven and United Aryan Brotherhood gangs were charged with various federal firearms and drug violations.

Authorities seized more than 100 illegal firearms, a rocket launcher and several pipe bombs as part of the raid, local ABC affiliate WFTS-Tampa Bay reported. Authorities also reportedly found several pounds of crystal meth and fentanyl.

The investigation, named “Operation Blackjack,” lasted more than three years and included state and federal prosecutors, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.

15 thoughts on “The Mississippi Magnolia (and other racist matters)

    • Nothing conclusive yet, but this story came out today: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/in-mississippi-gop-concern-rises-over-u-s-senate-runoff/

      JACKSON, Miss. – A U.S. Senate runoff that was supposed to provide an easy Republican win has turned into an unexpectedly competitive contest, driving Republicans and Democrats to pour in resources and prompting a planned visit by President Donald Trump to boost his party’s faltering candidate.

      Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith stumbled recently when, in praise of a supporter, she spoke of her willingness to sit in the front row of a public hanging if he invited her, words that, in the South, evoked images of lynchings. She has struggled to deal with the fallout, baffling members of her party and causing even faithful Republicans to consider voting for her opponent, former U.S. Rep. Mike Espy.

      That Espy is attempting to become the state’s first black senator since shortly after the Civil War made her remarks all the more glaring. It has positioned him to take advantage of a substantial black turnout and of a potential swell of crossover support from those put off by Hyde-Smith’s campaign.

      Espy remains the underdog in the conservative state, but Republicans with access to private polling say Hyde-Smith’s lead has narrowed significantly in recent days. Republicans need only to look to next-door Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones pulled out a surprise win last year, to stoke concern.

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