Commentary: Mississippi Hate Crimes Send a Chilling Message

The recent spike in racially motivated attacks tells us that some people would rather resort to violence than accept the progress that we've seen.

Posted: 11/16/2011 11:46 AM EST
racism, Mississippi, Martin Luther King Jr,hate crimes

A few months ago I wrote a column about the savage beating and killing of James Anderson, a middle-aged Black man from Jackson, MS, at the hands of white teens. I predicted then that Anderson’s case may not be an isolated incident, but a chilling harbinger of hate crimes to come.

 

I wrote this not because I revel in being the bearer of bad news when it comes to my beloved state’s racial progress, but because I am painfully aware of Mississippi and our nation’s past. History has shown us that whenever there is a serious lull in the economy, there is a rise in racially motivated violence. Unfortunately this severe recession is no exception to that rule.


Recently the Mississippi branch of the FBI released a study that found that the reported number of hate crimes committed in the State of Mississippi increased from 2 to 11 in the past year. That’s more than a five-fold increase. Nationally the number of hate crimes went from 6,604 to 6,628. But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the national numbers may be a bit subdued. Speaking to the Jackson, MS, Clarion-Ledger, Southern Poverty Law Center spokesperson Mark Potok said the numbers are in fact much, much higher. "There have been two major Justice Department studies and the upshot is the real level is about 200,000 hate crimes a year, Potok said. The real tragedy is, as shocking as these numbers may sound to many progressives, they are nothing compared to the number of hate crimes that go unreported by victims who fear racist retaliation more than they crave justice.      

 

Surely the racial climate in America has changed for the better in some respects. The nation elected Barack Obama president by a large margin, the Republican Party has a Black candidate, Herman Cain, seriously contending to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, and this year Mississippi, a state that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once described as a place “sweltering in the heat of injustice,” saw its first viable African-American gubernatorial candidate since Reconstruction.

But for some, the positive change in our nation’s racial climate has left many people with deep-seated psychological discomfort. They seek a return to the days of segregation, intimidation and brutality. To these racists I say, either wake up and join the modern world, or rot in the hellish cobwebs of the past. The choice is yours!



The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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