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Thursday, June 02, 2005The Legacy of Mississippi
I hate Mississippi.
After 50 Years, Emmett Till's Body Is Exhumed. In exhuming his body, authorities are seeking to confirm his identity and look for anything that might, even at this late date, serve as a clue in determining whether anyone else was involved in the murder. Two white men who were tried and acquitted -- and later admitted guilt in a magazine article -- are now dead.
I've heard of innocent black men who were forced to sign confessions, sentenced to prison for many years, then later acquitted if they were lucky enough to have someone fighting incessantly for their innocence. And, in the case of Emmett - you had admissions of guilt by these white men in Mississippi and yet they were allowed to go free and live a normal life for at least 50 years. I don't think this is justice. I don't think this is progress, unlike Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who thinks this act shows some type of progress since it suggests that the times are changing; federal officials are no longer willing to turn a blind-eye to these types of crimes. This gesture is not enough. To me it still shows contempt. Only after the perpetrators are dead or very old, they will be brought to justice. At best, this may be some type of superficial appeasement, but I don’t see this as justice.
This is an unfortunate incident, but there are many Emmett's all across the Deep South. Many blacks personally know people who were affected by those old Jim Crow laws. My father was one of those people. He was born and raised in Mississippi during those turbulent times. The things he told us that happened to blacks were unconscionable. My grandfather was murdered at the hands of whites because he refused to sell them his land, and yet nothing happened to them. The killings of the three civil rights workers in Philadelphia were among the most famous, which happened about a half hour from where my father lived. And now, after forty years, a longtime leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Edgar Ray Killen, now 79 years old, was arrested in January for those three murders, but has yet to be convicted.
Mississippi has become a symbol or icon for the widespread brutality of an era from American recent history. And, Emmett Till has become the poster child for everything that went wrong during those turbulent times. The death of Emmett reminds us what could go wrong when racism or prejudices are gone unchecked. I still have relatives living in Mississippi and this is one of the hardest places for me to visit. There were too much evil, too many killings, and too much sadness that occurred in this place that wasn’t resolved.
Unfortunately, Mississippi doesn't hold a monopoly on this type of brutality as the same things happened in many places all across the Deep South.
But, I still hate Mississippi...