All hands are needed on deck to halt the march of the ‘sovereign’ state legislature

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There are bills before the state legislature that are designed to literally destroy the concept of democracy in Jackson, the capital city, and the rest of the state’s municipalities, if it so desires. These bills are all power grabs that seem to be clearly unconstitutional. They are being pursued, nevertheless, because the leaders of the two-thirds Republican house and senate feel that the state legislature is sovereign.

 This idea of sovereignty was trumpeted across the state by former governor Ross Barnett, who never gave a political speech without referencing “the great sovereign state of Mississippi.” He, of course, inherited his belief from the likes of Jefferson Davis and Theodore Bilbo. Nevertheless, it is all “poppy-cock,” if America is to remain a federal system of government. Perhaps Mississippi’s leaders are counting on the Supreme Court declaring that state legislatures, and thus states, are sovereign.

At any rate, the legislative leaders are proceeding to pass House Bill 1020, which would expand the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID), which on its face seems to violate several federal laws, if not totally unconstitutional; grant the Capitol Police Force exclusive jurisdiction in the district; create a judicial system for the district; extract taxes from the city and county for exclusive use in the district; and even dictate to the city of Jackson how it can and cannot spend money provided under previously passed laws.

 Given the fact that the CCID would cover roughly one-fourth of the city, and therefore deal with much more than just state property, and the fact that there is even a bill to transform the entire city into a CCID, what is happening is that a white Republican-dominated legislature is replacing a democratically-elected set of officials with its own set of appointed officials.

In addition to the CCID power-grab, there is a second bill designed to take-away Jackson’s water and sewage system, placing it under a nine-member board, only two of whom would be Jackson appointees of Jackson’s mayor. Both of these bills follow in the wake of the ongoing effort to take the Medgar Evers airport from the city of Jackson. 

 The totality of these measures is that, in addition to being outright racist, they violate the city’s charter as well as several state and federal laws. It will be bad enough if these laws are passed. If they are allowed to stand, any and all other municipalities will be in jeopardy of losing their local governments and the democracy that is practiced therein.

For all of those reasons and more, all hands are needed on deck to defeat the proposed bills. Obviously, all hands means that the thinking, the voices, the physical presence, the influence, and the courage of the entire body are needed. For all of those reasons we appeal to the Legislative Black Caucus, to the Democrats and Republicans who still listen to their moral conscience, and to all citizens and residents who believe in democracy.

We issue a special call for unity among those who have shown a commitment to progressive change. 

(1) To those who are senior citizens or just veteran warriors, do not overlook or write-off the youth warriors because you do not think that they have learned enough or that they are likely to make “rookie” mistakes that could be avoided if they would just listen to their elders. Do not write them off because their language or approach may be different. Embrace them, share your stories with them, and convince them that both of you are after the same goal and can and should coordinate your efforts. 

(2) To those who are young or relatively young to the struggle, do not discount or ignore those who are elderly because may lack the energy, speak a different language, or get their information from different sources. Do not avoid them because you think that their day has come and gone and that they are now just in the way. Try and understand them and the wisdom that they may have to share. It is important to combine the wisdom from all ages. Racism is so strong because each new generation of oppressors learns from and utilizes what they learned from the previous generation. 

(3) To those who are progressive white warriors, continue to use your access and skills to assist in the struggle. At the same time, use your influence in the white community to convince them that in the long run, democracy is good for everybody and that you are committed to humankind and are not what some of them refer to as a “N-lover.” An attitude of being willing to learn and to follow is also important in order to convince many Black people that you are genuine and serious. 

(4) To those who are progressive Black nationalists, or who have simply grown up in circumstances of extreme racism, do not write-off all white people. While keeping your eyes and ears open, remember the John Browns who gave their lives for abolition and the Lyndon Johnsons who torpedo their own political careers in order to stand for the passage of civil rights legislation.

It is crucial that we all understand that the leaders who believe in the sovereign state legislature are on the march. They are the same people who follow the Donald Trump idea of making America great again by destroying democracy in favor of white nationalism. They will stop at nothing in their bid to restore politics to the 1890 – 1950 condition. Yet, freedom-loving citizens should stay encouraged because “the people united can never be defeated.” 

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All hands are needed on deck to halt the march of the ‘sovereign’ state legislature

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
February 13, 2023