One generally calls attention to things flying beneath the radar because they need detecting and dealing with. Such is the case here. The removal of the statue of Andrew Jackson, the proper treatment of the state’s historically Black universities, and the payment of reparations to Black Americans are not the only issues that are flying under the radar, but they are flying under the radar and need to be called out.
The removal of the statue of Andrew Jackson from City Hall is a matter that is fairly easy to deal with. The council voted to remove it several years ago, but there has been no follow-up to get it done. It is difficult to understand why this matter has continued to fly beneath the radar. Is this because other matters, such as the water crisis, the garbage collection dispute, and street and bridge repairs are occupying so much time and money? Is it a matter of pressure, coming from elsewhere, to not continue erasing traces of the Confederacy? Is it a matter of officials changing their minds and hoping that nobody notices or calls attention to it?
Regardless of the reason, we will continue to raise the issue and hope that it will not continue to be ignored. The same thing goes for changing the name of what was named J.Z. George Elementary School and other Confederate figures.
Secondly, there is the matter of the disparate treatment and willful neglect of the historically Black public universities in this state. Many people realized those differences prior to the filing of Ayers vs. Waller. What is not acknowledged today is that the same treatment has continued under slightly changed rules or policies. There are differences in budgeting, presidential selections, program authorization, and much more.
In the area of budgeting, no attempt has been made to address the salaries of classroom teachers and administrative staff on the different campuses. One example of this is that freshman biology teachers on the different campuses are not paid on the same scale. There is a world of differences between such a salary at Ole Miss and at Mississippi Valley. This is an easy thing to fix and the lack of a fix should not be justified by suggesting that salary recommendations are in the province of the campus presidents. The college board could and should establish such guidelines since all of the teachers are employees of the same system under the board’s oversight. It is just one example of the disparate treatment that exists across the board.
Similarly, the manner in which presidents are selected, and in particular the actual persons selected, shows the different manner in which Black presidents assume their roles at these public institutions. Many of the ones selected have been less than the top of the group from which they were selected; several have had previous checkered records in former places of employment. In most cases, the board has been cautioned before it made the appointments. (We have addressed this matter before, especially in an article entitled, “Historical Relationship between JSU and the College Board and Staff.”) These warnings were to no avail, however, as the board proceeded to put in place those whom it desired, for whatever reasons.
The Black universities have been deliberately held back by the board which does not enable them to offer certain programs. An example of this can be seen by comparing what is offered by Mississippi State University as opposed to what has been authorized for Alcorn State University, especially when it is considered that Alcorn is the older of the two institutions that were started with similar missions.
Because of the fact that the Ayers case was settled through negotiations, the matter of the shabby treatment of the Black universities continues to fly under the radar. It, nevertheless, needs to be addressed, if and when the federal courts become more friendly or understanding.
A third matter that continues to fly under the radar is that of reparations. Too many Black leaders have ignored it because white leaders have been so adamantly opposed to the idea. Opposing white spokespersons have fallen back on such excuses as: no former slaves or slave owners are alive today; it is virtually to determine who would be eligible for reparations; who would receive how much and/or in what form; and what to do about mixed-race individuals.
As these debates take place, one can keep several things in mind – not nearly this much debate took place when other groups were being considered for reparations and many white political leaders have even opposed studying the questions posed around the issue.
There is no question that millions of Africans were enslaved in America. There can be no question that these enslaved persons greatly aided America in terms of its economic and military development. There can be no denial that the generational wealth of many white Americans has enabled them to excel while the sustained generational poverty has plagued many Black Americans. On all of those bases, Black Americans are due reparations. Yet, it is a matter that continues to fly under the radar.
Very few people discuss these matters – reparations for Black Americans, equitable treatment for the state’s Black universities, and the continued removal of Confederate names and symbols from public facilities and spaces. That silence is precisely what we mean by flying under the radar. That will change only if and when Black people make these priority issues.