OPINION: Jacksonians / Mississippians can raise their political and socioeconomic level in 2024

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As we close out 2023, there is still quite a bit of news regarding challenges facing Jackson and, by extension, Black people in Hinds County and the state of Mississippi. Quite a bit of work needs to be done on streets and bridges, many streets that have been “patched” now need serious work. Water quality and delivery have improved, but billing issues persist, and JXN Water officials remain remarkably inaccessible to answer customer concerns. A municipal garbage collection contract could again prove problematic as the administration and some councilpersons are divided over the matter. Outward migration by middle and upper income Black and white citizens continues unabated, affecting the viability of Jackson Public Schools, public libraries, the zoo, and other municipal services that depend upon a healthy municipal tax base.

Beyond the city of Jackson, the rising number of charter schools and the callous handling of the state’s historically Black colleges and universities continue to exist as challenges to the education and future of younger people. It is also likely that the Republican-dominated state legislature will make another bid to stamp out critical race theory and other intellectual pursuits that are aimed at undergirding freedom, democracy, and human rights.

These old and continuing challenges join the real threats of white Republican attempts to wrest control and ownership of the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport away from Jackson; to remove various state offices to nearby Madison and Rankin counties, and to usurp police power and judicial jurisdictional matters from Hinds County and the city of Jackson. If, and as, these types of initiatives succeed in Jackson and Hinds County, they are likely to be imported to other predominantly Black municipalities and counties.

A crucial part of the strategy to depopulate Black-administered political entities in this generation is overblowing stories about crime, disputes amongst Black officials, and the low rankings of many predominantly Black institutions and school districts. For example, for as long as Black citizens can remember, Rankin County has been a place where police abuses and injustices toward Black people have existed, but the focus is put on Jackson as crime-ridden. For as long as citizens can remember, predominantly Black schools and school districts have been receiving far less per pupil funding than predominantly white ones, making it extremely difficult for them to provide an adequate education to their students. That was the impetus for the Alexander vs. Holmes and Ayers vs. Waller law suits. In both cases, white officials found ways and means to maintain the status quo.

What one sees then in Jackson and across Mississippi is not only a repetition of negative, human-created problems, but problems that are increasingly race-based. It reminds one of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when the Republicans took control of Congress and many state legislatures. She said it would lead to a return to more Jim Crow legislation. There appears to be a definite movement to return to the conditions that destroyed the progressive, democratic push experience during Reconstruction. The current push is based upon what the white supremacists learned from the defeat of their ancestors after the Civil War. It is stimulated by the fear of the declining number of white people in the population and by the success of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) supporters following Donald Trump in many local elections.

This picture is indeed bleak. It can be discouraging. Our advice, however, is to be encouraged and to hold on in the name and in the spirit of people like Frederick Douglass, Daisy Bates, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King, because the beauty of history is that it can be beneficially studied by anybody. Black Jacksonians and Black Mississippians can study history and realize what has been done in previous generations and can be done today to protect and raise the city and state to a new political and socio-political level.

The formula for achieving the heightened level is not new. It just needs to be seriously known, accepted and implemented by the affected population. 

(1) They must realize that racism is real; that it is powerful; that it will not die out because it offers privileges and advantages to its tribal members. 

(2) Consequently, they must realize that for many white people in and out of power, maintaining white supremacy is an all-out battle and must be treated as such. 

(3) The destruction of racism means that each Black person must themselves be active in every way that they can, not depending upon others to engage the battle for them. 

(4) They must always think of each and every challenge or problem in terms of solutions, that is, what can and needs to be done about the problem, not just complaints about the problem. 

(5) They must think foremost about coordinating their thoughts and efforts with other activists or organizations rather than trying to create yet another group that they can lead. With unity, there is strength; singular ego-tripping solves nothing and usually gets one nowhere. 

With these types of efforts, there is no problem that an 80+% Black population in Jackson and Hinds County and a 40+% Black population in Mississippi cannot resolve with just token assistance from white liberals and/or the federal government. Although victories in the past have been scarce, they can be magnified and multiplied under the right conditions. With that thought in mind, we urge our fellow citizens to be encouraged and to put forth the intellectual, physical, and financial resources needed to free ourselves and create truly democratic societies, thereby making the dreams of our fore-parents’ dreams come true. 

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OPINION: Jacksonians / Mississippians can raise their political and socioeconomic level in 2024

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
December 11, 2023