Two recent New York Times articles touching on the subject of race in Mississippi show just how nuanced it is.
On October 19, the Times published this article profiling U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate’s sentencing of a white woman in the 2011 attack on a black man in Jackson. Judge Wingate’s comments were very insightful. They included:
When I was picking a jury in the James Ford Seale case — the resurrected cold case of a white member of the Ku Klux Klan who had kidnapped and savagely murdered two black youths in the 1960s — I was appalled at the number of young white jurors who proved unfit for the final juror selection because of their racist views. The number of white youths who are skinheads or admirers of the American Nazi Party and Ku Klux Klan is disturbing. This tells me that the misguided racial education of these youths has not been meaningfully addressed in their homes or schools.
James Craig Anderson should not have died. Unfortunately, he simply was the victim of a society which as yet has not healed itself. He had a family, and by all accounts was an employed, law-abiding citizen. His flaw: Being an African-American, being an innocent victim enveloped in the clutches of robotic, mechanical racial hatred, the seeds of which were planted and nurtured by racist literature, demagoguery, and ignorance.
I agree with everything he said.
Yet I somehow also find myself agreeing with Mike Espy’s quote in today’s Times article profiling his U.S. Senate race:
“There are very few who would not consider me because I am black,” Mr. Espy, 64, said as he strolled through Indianola after lunch. “I believe we in many ways have crossed that hurdle. Many of them, if they don’t vote for me, it will be because of their idea of what I represent as a party person.”
How do you reconcile it? I don’t know. I can’t. But I think it’s all true.
I believe there are white Mississippians who would both espouse racist views they’ve heard their whole lives and vote for the right black candidate for statewide office. I can’t explain it. I just believe it’s true.