Why is it that my state, Mississippi, cannot make the news for something positive….instead it keeps dragging the state back to the 1950s. The latest ruling does nothing to change that opinion.
According to the Mississippi Free Press, the traditionally right-wing U.S. Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit has upheld an 1890 voting law in Mississippi that was explicitly designed to make it easy to strip Black people of their voting rights for life — even as the court admitted that was the original purpose of the law.
“The court’s conservative majority admitted that the Jim Crow law was ‘steeped in racism,’ but said the State had made enough changes in the 132 years since to override its white supremacist taint,” reported Ashton Pittman. “A 2018 analysis found that the law still disproportionately disenfranchises Black Mississippians compared to white residents.”
“The 1890 provision at issue is Section 241 of the Mississippi Constitution, which originally permanently disenfranchised people who committed the following crimes: bribery, burglary, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement and bigamy,” noted the report.
These are all crimes that were disproportionately, or in some cases almost exclusively, used to prosecute Black people, many of whom hadn’t actually done anything wrong.
In their effort to only include crimes they believed Black people were most likely to commit, the white-supremacist drafters of the 1890 Constitution did not originally include murder and rape as disenfranchising crimes,” the report noted.
As the report noted, the Mississippi legislature adopted race neutral language in the law — something that, contrary to popular belief, a lot of Jim Crow laws of the era did — but the drafters of the law made clear in speeches what the law was for. Mississippi Speaker of the House James Vardaman said: “There is no use to equivocate or lie about the matter … Mississippi’s constitutional convention of 1890 was held for no other purpose than to eliminate the n–ger from politics. Not the ‘ignorant and vicious’, as some of the apologists would have you believe, but the n–ger.”
The Fifth Circuit argued that since the list of crimes was later updated, with burglary being taken out and murder and rape being added, there was no longer a racial intent in the list of crimes, and therefore it was now allowed — even though the state still firmly had a segregationist code at the time that list was amended.
There may be a ‘New South’ but Mississippi is not one of them…..I have always said when visiting Mississippi then set your watch back 150 years.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”