The University of Mississippi has been rocked by yet another unconscionable racist act. Last Sunday morning, university police discovered a statue of James Meredith, (the first black student to integrate the school in 1962) with a noose tied around the neck and a pre-2003 Georgia flag draped across it. Two men were seen near the statue and there is now a reward for $25,000 for information leading to their identity and eventual arrests. Investigators are looking into surveillance footage to help determine who is responsible for this travesty.
This is not the first time the sate of Mississippi has been in the spotlight for racism and heinous racial crimes . Far from it. This state has a bloody and shameful history that it just can’t seem to shake. Although there have been strides made in the effort to improve race relations and clean up the racist overtones in the state, there yet remains an overwhelming taint of hatred and fear. The university has been quick to distance itself from the most recent occurrence, making it clear they do not support or condone these hateful acts. They are in fact so serious about finding the culprits responsible that they have enlisted the help of the FBI to bolster its investigation into the matter.
On Tuesday, over 150 University of Mississippi students, both black and white, met at the statue to protest the vandalism. Many of them brandished posters with hand written slogans declaring their solidarity in the face of this incident. One of the posters poignantly read: “The actions done in the cowardly dark will never diminish the light of James Meredith’s legacy nor our creed.” Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson called it a hate crime and noted that although progress has been made, there is still much work to do. He lamented the fact that, when you turn down the main road at Ole Miss, it still bears the name “Confederate Drive.” That should be unacceptable in this age of so-called reason and tolerance. With glaring oversights such as this, it is really no wonder that the University of Mississippi has been rocked yet again by another racist act.
As horrifying as this cowardly act was, it pales in comparison to the actual murders that have taken place in the south for many, many years. The random murders of black men and the vicious lynchings that are still taking place, are testament to the need for a national conversation about race relations in this country. As recently as 2010, the desecrated bodies of young black men have been found hanging from trees, with the blame for their deaths shrouded in mystery and denial. In the case of 26-year-old Frederick Jermaine Carter who was discovered hanging from an oak tree in Greenwood, Mississippi. Frederick and his step-father were painting a house in a predominantly white section of the town when the step-father stepped away to retrieve some needed tools. He returned a short while later to find Frederick, who purportedly suffered from mental disabilities, missing.
According to official reports from authorities there, young Frederick pushed a table under a tree, climbed on it, looped a rope around a branch, tied the other end around his own neck, kicked over the table and hung himself. Really? This incident caused the town to become divided along racial lines as to the true cause of Frederick Carter’s death. Mississippi State Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Adel Shaker officially ruled out suicide in Carter’s death. Subsequently Dr. Shaker’s employment with the state ended under mysterious circumstances in November of 2011. That fact alone is rather telling and speaks volumes about the lengths that will be taken to cover up the truth.
Yes, the University of Mississippi has found itself soundly rocked by the malevolent and racist acts of evil perpetrators. Terrible atrocities like this and many others, such as the infamous 1955 murder of Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi, remain as prominent examples of the racism that is yet alive and well in this country. Every time something like this happens, we are reminded of the insidious and true nature of this mythical post-racial America. Until we as Americans begin to take full account of, and responsibility for, our actions, we will continue to suffer the ugly scarring of racial hatred and intolerance.
Op-Ed By Mai Nowlin