It’s clear that Republicans in the Mississippi House of Representatives have no respect for Black History Month, as they just voted on Tuesday to create “a new court system that will be appointed by state officials — all of whom are white — for the capital of Jackson…The change would be a break from the rest of the state, where judges and prosecutors are elected by voters… and would also expand a separate capitol police force, overseen by state authorities.”
This is even more egregious if one considers the inherent Blackness of Mississippi’s capitol city of Jackson, wherein 80% of the residents are Black, and has the highest percentage of Black residents most major cities in America.
Indeed, the effects of gerrymandering have never been more clearly demonstrated—“Mississippi’s Legislature is thoroughly controlled by white Republicans, who have redrawn districts over the past 30 years to ensure they can pass any bill without a single Democratic vote. Every legislative Republican is white, and most Democrats are Black,” according to Mississippi Today.
The controversial bill was first introduced last month, and members of the state’s Black caucus likened the measure “to the state’s Jim Crow-era constitution of 1890” during the debate.
Democratic Rep. Ed Blackmon from Canton, earnestly pleaded with his colleagues to join him in opposing the bill stating, “Only in Mississippi would we have a bill like this…where we say solving the problem requires removing the vote from Black people.”
Unfortunately, Rep. Blackmon’s impassioned entreaties were of no avail, and on Tuesday the bill passed with a vote of 76-38, “primarily along party lines. Two Black members of the House — Rep. Cedric Burnett, a Democrat from Tunica, and Angela Cockerham, an independent from Magnolia — voted for the measure. All but one lawmaker representing the city of Jackson — Rep. Shanda Yates, a white independent — opposed the bill.”
Chowke Antar Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, looked on from the gallery as the bill was being debated; and when the bill passed this week, said “It reminds me of apartheid. What we just saw was some of the most oppressive legislation that we have seen in our city’s history…It’s oppressive because it strips the rights of Black people to vote; it’s oppressive because it redirects their tax dollars to something that they don’t endorse or believe in,” Lumumba added.
If the state Senate passes the bill, the following changes would go into effect: the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court “would appoint two judges to oversee cases in the district; the Mississippi attorney general would appoint four prosecutors; the state public defender would appoint public defenders; and the Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner would continue to have authority over a Capitol Police force over the expanded CCID.”
All four of these positions: the chief justice, attorney general, public defender, and the public safety commissioner are currently all held by whites, and “no Black official has held any of those positions. No Black Mississippian has held any statewide elected office since the brief period of Reconstruction after the Civil War, which ended due to white terrorism to block Black voting power, which was called the First Mississippi Plan.”