Starling of the Month - September 2019
Four Mississippi citizens continue the fight against racist Jim Crow-era legislation.
Despite the progress that the United States has made as a nation, in 2019 the country continues to exist in a polarized state. Evidenced through the rise of the current presidential administration and his loyal constituents, racism is well alive and kicking heading into a fresh decade. If people, as transformative and progressive as they can be still struggle with this deficiency, why do we expect any different from their codified ideas?
This is something now being explored in the state of Mississippi. Of the 50 states, Mississippi holds the largest population of Black residents at 38 percent. Despite this statistic, no black resident has held statewide office since the time of reconstruction in the state. In Mississippi, this includes the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, commissioner of agriculture and commissioner of insurance.
At Mississippi's constitutional convention in 1890, election proceedings were changed such so that in order to win statewide office, the candidate must receive both the popular vote majority and the majority of the statehouse districts. If both of these feats are not accomplished, the winner is then decided by the statehouse of representatives.
Four Black voters filed a lawsuit with the state's district court urging that the states 1890's decision is a carryover racist electoral practice. The written proceedings of the convention state that it is the duty of the convention "to secure to the State of Mississippi, 'white supremacy.'" That very clear intent has led to the covert (or overt depending on whom you ask) barring of Black Mississippians from statewide office.
Although they comprise almost 40 percent of the Mississippi population, Black politicians already face an uphill battle seeking office in one of the most racist states in America. That battle is intensified when you must fight both against the public and the policies as well. As exemplified in our national political system, sole decisive responsibility should not be given to one governing entity, whether that be nationally in the House of Representatives, or in the state's equivalent.