Commentary Race

“Mississippi Goddamn.” Nina Simone Said It. Last Night, I Thought It.

Rebecca Sive

Like in so many other American home-places, black and white Mississippians see things differently, and, consequently, vote differently. As Mississippians proved last night, when things get really, really bad, together, we get our act together; we overcome. Now we all need to keep working to overcome exclusionary voter ID laws.

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

Nina Simone said “Mississippi Goddam.” I thought it. Last night. And then my faith in the American people, especially in the Mississippi people, was redeemed.

My friend Jodi Jacobson, editor of Rewire, pointed out this morning that while the “egg-as-person” amendment, Initiative 26, was roundly defeated by Mississippi voters yesterday, Initiative 27, the “voter ID” amendment, passed.  (Loretta Ross has eloquently and passionately written about both initiatives here and here.)

Initiative 27 is also insidious; according to Jodi, it “…will disenfranchise minority voters who already suffer discrimination in a state with a history of denying African Americans their right to vote.”

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I recently gave a speech in which I told the story of asking my mother why she wasn’t going to Mississippi to register voters. This was in 1964, at a time when my mother –and father — were dragging my sister and me around as they relentlessly canvassed, leafleted, drove people to the polls, and otherwise made sure that local (Democratic) voters exercised the franchise. So, suffice to say, this daughter of an immigrant mother doesn’t take this matter of the right to vote lightly.

Yet, while my mother has never made it to Mississippi (in significant part because of its history of denying voting rights), I have – willingly and many times.In fact, I love Mississippi. I go every chance I get. Am I crazy? Nope, not in this respect, anyway.

I love, love, love Mississippi for its music. I first heard the (Mississippi) blues as a teenager growing up in New York. That song was Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” played every day to open Jack Spector’s WMCA radio show. Later, my love affair with Mississippi was sealed when, as a college student, I heard Albert King’s “Born under a Bad Sign” and Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” (ironically, a story of leaving “bad” Mississippi for “good” Chicago).

This Mississippi love affair is also why I live in Chicago. Where else (but Mississippi) could one hear Jimmy Reed live and that Robert-Johnson-type music live every night? And so sweet home Chicago it was: My husband and I packed our bags and moved to Chicago the minute we could: no jobs, no money, no home, no matter; we were satisfied with the knowledge we could hear Jimmy Reed and Robert Johnson’s “grandson,” Muddy Waters, (who, unlike Johnson, had taken “Sweet Home Chicago” to heart), just about every night of the week. Mississippi (by way of its northernmost city, Chicago) was heaven.

So, when this egg-as person-in-Mississippi amendment reared its ugly head, so-to-speak, I looked up. I paid attention. This was my Mississippi these crazies were talking about.

And then I came to my senses: In her right mind, how could any Mississippian — black or white — think egg-as-person was a good idea? Well, as it turns out, she couldn’t. Notwithstanding Mississippi’s reputation as an oh-so-backward state, Mississippians, just like the rest of us, think carefully as they head to the polls. They thought about the full import of Initiative 26. They read about it. Then, they read some more. They grappled with the idea that egg-as-person just doesn’t work, even if you’ve looked at one of those jars with a dead fetus in it and been repelled.

Indeed, the more they grappled with it, the worse egg-as-person appeared. Here is what one Mississippian wrote, in the comments section on the website of a local TV station:

Had this bill passed, people from all over the world could have claimed American citizenship for a child they conceived on a visit to Mississippi! 

Yes, I appreciate Planned Parenthood, the Episcopal Church, and the thousands of Mississippi parents who organized against Initiative 26 and defeated it. But, I also credit the unorganized, black and white, like the woman who wrote to the TV station, who thoughtfully exercised their right to vote and knowingly voted against Initiative 26 (for whatever reason made sense to them).

I also appreciate the implication of Jodi’s point about the differing fate of the two initiatives (I haven’t seen the county-by-county voter data that might confirm this), i.e., Mississippi whites split their votes, while Mississippi blacks voted against both measures, a presumptive indicator of the dim state of Mississippi race relations.

But, I say: “Same old, same old,” just as they say in Mississippi, and Chicago. Same race relations status quo as in so many other American home-places last night and this morning.

Yes, just like in so many other American home-places, black and white Mississippians see things differently, and, consequently, vote differently. It’s not a good thing, but it’s not the same thing as egg-as-person. In fact, as Mississippians proved last night, when things get really, really bad, together, we get our act together; we overcome.

Last night, while Mississippians were voting, I went to a dinner in Chicago for supporters of human rights, featuring a speech by Farai Maguwu, a black Zimbabwean man, who spoke about the racist atrocities of Robert Mugabe. (Racism knows no color, in case you were wondering.)

But this audience sure did (know racial color, that is) : Sold out, there was a mere handful of African Americans in a room of close to 1,000 people in a city whose  population is 40% African American—most of whom descendants of Mississippians, who left Mississippi for “Sweet Home Chicago,” but haven’t found Chicago so sweet these days. In fact, in 2011 there are tens of thousands of fewer children of Mississippi in Chicago than there were just a decade ago.

Notwithstanding the likelihood of having to deal with a voter id law that will likely discriminate against them (and wouldn’t have passed in Chicago), many of the departed have willingly returned to Mississippi. It’s easier and cheaper to live there, and, well, while the schools aren’t that great, they stack up OK against the ghetto schools most of these Mississippi children attended in Chicago’s ghettos, where racism knows color, big time.

Which brings me back to where I started this piece: In 1964, when I was in school and asked my mother about her plans for the summer, I was attending school with one seemingly African-American boy. However, he was, reputedly, “really Puerto Rican.” Yes, neighbors really claimed that because that (alternative racial) heritage made his being around us excusable.

By contrast, it was the next town over (both towns barely twenty miles from Harlem), where I went to the YMCA, which had the “real” black people and the local black ghetto. I took the bus there and crossed our color line three or four times a week. I thought about this crossing every time I made it, even when I wasn’t on the bus. So-much-so that my writing opinion pieces about racial matters started then: I was having my own experiences with the issue of race and needed to think-them-through.

Today, 45 years since my conversation with my mother about Mississippi voting; 45 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed, and a lot has changed for the better in Mississippi (say, blacks vote, and blacks and whites vote the same way, sometimes), many northern white Americans still abhor Mississippi. They think it’s racist in a way that the rest of America isn’t. I know they do. They tell me. Then, I ask them to reconsider. Then, they look at me with disdain.

Then, I remind them that Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney wouldn’t have had a song to record, much less the proverbial “pot …….” had they not listened to Mississippi sons Muddy Waters, Albert King and Junior Wells, whose great grandsons voted yesterday against eggs-as-persons, just like the grandsons of the white sharecroppers down the road. 
When Nina Simone sang “Mississippi Goddam,” she sang: “All I want is equality for my sister, my brother and me.” Well, in some ways, if not all ways, she’s got it. We just have to remember that we shall overcome and keep fighting, together, to get the rest of that equality.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?