by Claudia Brunson
A deep history of slavery, racism, and discrimination stains the great state of Mississippi. Stereotypes of Mississippi are often times filled with negative images of gruesome lynchings, Jim Crow and inequality. But considering that it is the 21st century and many believe that Mississippi has hurdled the problems with racism and discrimination, does that truly mean that inequality and discrimination no longer exist in this state?
Deryl Paul Dedmon, Dylan Wade Butler and John Aaron Rice, the three young white men responsible for the death of a 48 year old black male, James Craig Anderson, were recently found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the death of Anderson. U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves, an African- American himself, handed down the sentence to the three men who were raised right here in the Jackson metropolitan area.
Growing up as a white male in Jackson, Tanner Menist has experienced accounts of racism and judgment of people because of the color their skin tone.
“Growing up in Mississippi exposed me to many different forms of racism,” Menist said. “I have witnessed many people stereotype and verbally degrade other races. However, there are also countless men and women in Mississippi who stand up for what is right and do not judge a person based on their race or ethnicity, but instead by their character.”
The Anderson’s death happened in Jackson and not far from Millsaps has a reason to spark debate and emotions at Millsaps.
The crime committed by these young men reminded Mississippians just how hateful and cruel Mississippi’s past was. Just These three men decided to beat up and harass Anderson and then proceed to run him over with a pick up truck (ultimately the cause of his death). As the three Brandon natives were done with beating up Anderson they sped off in the truck yelling out, “White Power.”
“These [lynchings] were festivals where people would travel on trains long distance to see somebody they knew was going to be vigilante killed, “Associate Professor of Philosophy and Interim Director of Peace and Justices Studies, Kristen Golden Brown said. “So it was like going to the movies. What upset me when I read this recent article was [it made me realize], ‘oh the Mississippi that I live in at Millsaps and the people that I interact with most of the time is just a part of Mississippi.’ It made me think that maybe at Millsaps things could be worse than I thought and I am not one to think that racism is over. It made me think that things are worse in how people are raised or concerned. But it is alarming.”
Menist is shocked and ashamed that racial acts such as this still exist in the Mississippi that he grew up in. He says that there is no way in which the actions of these boys can be justified.
“There is no real way for me to convey my thoughts on the three Brandon boys that killed the black man in Jackson,” Menist said. “It was a barbaric and heinous act. I am saddened that there are still men and women that seek out such racially driven harassment. But I know that this single case does not represent Mississippi as a whole and that Millsaps is extremely racially sensitive to all races. Millsaps provides students of all races an atmosphere that is welcoming and inviting.
The students, faculty, and staff should concern themselves with this case considering that racism and discrimination is not dead and it is certainly not far from the environment in which students live, learn and play together. The people of Millsaps should be aware of how he or she might act towards someone that might not be of his or her same race and should be aware of how others treat other individuals outside of that person’s race.
“We are all part of a kind of community psyche,” Brown said “And I think it would make students more vigilant in being concerned with other students —, or if they themselves harbor some of these thoughts, they may be more vigilant and contain racially bias attitudes. I do not think it can be denied that pretty much every one has racial bias it is part of how we are raised, because we are raised in a racial context and media and all sort of things make people have certain associations. The more students are concerned and sensitive to it the more they will watch themselves and watch others and sort of try to become better. “
Menist agrees that prejudice and discrimination exists within Mississippi.
“I think that racism and prejudice still exists in Mississippi partly due to the state’s racial history, but also because of sheer ignorance and inability to understand one another,” he said. “[And I also] wouldn’t have anything to say to the three young men. There is nothing I can ask them that would justify or explain their inhumane acts on that dark day in history.”