Point of View Columns

Mississippi Goddamn and the Tarnished Legend of Bret Favre

There is no rational way to begin to write about this story so we can begin with the title. “Mississippi Goddamn” is a song written and performed by Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1964. And if you don’t know who Nina Simone was take a few nanoseconds on Google to find out. You will be glad that you did.

Mississippi has always been a level of Hell for Black people in America. In the 18th and 19th century enslavers would threaten their enslaved men, women and children with the prospect of being sold to a Mississippi enslaver if they were not sufficiently obedient, subservient and servile.

The enslavers in Mississippi took the infernal system of slavery to new depths, literally working enslaved men and women to death – saving the children for a later depth. And that tradition survived the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Going into the 20th century during the so-called Great Migration of Black Americans from the South (Refugees From Terror would be more historically correct), many natives of Mississippi went somewhere and anywhere, as long as it wasn’t Mississippi.

But many Black people did not leave Mississippi and in the face of lynching, discrimination, wholesale demolition of communities and daily indignities – they stayed. They stayed and built communities. They stayed and fought and died for their freedom. Indeed, Medgar Evers was murdered in front of his wife and children for having the temerity to encourage Black people to vote and Emmett Till was mutilated and lynched for having the nerve to (possibly) say anything to a white woman, no matter how innocuous.

Yet they stayed. They fought for the right to vote and the very real risk of their lives. They stayed and elected Black people to the State legislature, to Congress and to the office of Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. And if someone could have told the mother of Emmett Till in 1955, or the widow of Medgar Evers in 1962, that in 2022 the Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi would be a Black man named Chokwe Lumumba they would have smiled through their tears in disbelief.

But despite the fitful and hard won steps for progress in Mississippi, it is still a bus stop to Hell for too many Black people. Black people have the highest rates of infant mortality and the lowest rates of life expectancy in America. By every indicia of quality of life, the Black people in Mississippi are living the life of a very poor person in a so-called Third World country.

Which brings us to the story of Bret Favre, who should have his photograph on a “Wanted” poster all over Mississippi. Bret Favre is a native son of Mississippi, a football star at Southern Mississippi University and a superstar in the National Football League, earning of $140 million in NFL payments alone, along with uncounted millions from endorsements, etc.

Somehow Favre and his confederates, no pun intended, thought that it was a good idea to siphon Mississippi state welfare funds intended to assist the poorest of the poor in that state (who are among the poorest in all of North America), to be used for private initiatives like a volleyball court/stadium at Southern Mississippi University where Favre’s daughter played volleyball.

That Favre and his confederates (still no pun intended) thought that of all the funds that could be siphoned, welfare funds for the poor people of Mississippi (many of whom are Black) would be the best target is a textbook illustration of racism, class privilege and greed in its vilest iteration.

The fact that this cabal may have siphoned off more than $77 million it is pretty clear that more than a volley ball court has been built.

But it has to make one wonder how, in the third decade of the 21st century that robbing the poor to enrich the rich can make sense.1st

Perhaps he has a good answer that will be scrubbed by his lawyers, but never scrubbed clean of the truth.

In the meantime, all that can be said is Mississippi Goddamn!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 12, 2012

It has been said that Sunday is the most racially segregated day of the week in the United States. Two weeks ago in Mississippi, this saying was proven true once more. Meanwhile, the mystery of Mitt Romney’s taxes continues. Can he really be elected without disclosing his tax returns? And finally, Michael Jordan is already in the Hall of Fame. Now he is doing something that is more important that scoring baskets.

Mississippi Goddamn!

About 45 years ago jazz legend Nina Simone wrote the song, “Mississippi Goddamn”. It was a song that highlighted the outrageous racism that was unique even during the worst racist eruptions that have convulsed this country. Sadly, Mississippi has fairly earned its characterization as an ultra-racist enclave that is truly the last holdout of the Confederate States of America.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised that a predominantly white Christian congregation in that state of confusion called Mississippi actually banned a black couple from being married in its church. Keep in mind that this couple was not committing the unpardonable sin of engaging in interracial marriage. Both the prospective bride and groom were black.

The couple, rather than fight foolishness on what is supposed to be a day of joy and celebration got married in another church. After a few days a representative of the church apologized with one of those gossamer “if we offended anyone” routines that are employed by gaffe-prone celebrities, politicians and athletes.

And at the end of the day nothing has changed in Mississippi.

Mitt’s Mystery

In 1968, George Romney, Mitt Romney’s biological father, became the first presidential candidate to release his tax returns and he released twelve years of his returns. Since then, liberal and conservative and Republican and Democratic candidates have all released their tax returns as a matter of course.

It seems reasonable, after any cabinet secretary has to release his/her tax returns. Certainly appointees of many local, state and federal offices have to release their tax returns. And, come to think of it, shouldn’t the American people have the right to know how their president makes his/her money?

Apparently Mitt Romney doesn’t think so. He has spoon fed the public one year of tax returns and has only committed to releasing one more year at some point in time. The contempt that he has for the political process and the American people is so foul that you can almost smell it.

While it is true that tax returns and private finances are personal, it seems pretty clear that an individual who chooses to hold public office has to give up some of that privacy.
Or else they can just stay home and stay private.

It will be interesting to see if Mitt Romney can continue with this stubborn refusal to hold on to his tax returns and still get elected president.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. Mitt will just have to learn the hard way.

Hooray for #23

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest professional basketball player who ever lived. And while there is an argument in a sports bar or a barber shop that is just waiting to begin, there is no doubt that Mr. Jordan has come a long way from his apolitical days (remember “Republicans were sneakers too”?).

Michael Jordan and several other NBA players have endorsed the candidacy of President Obama and are actively campaigning for him. And while supporters of Barack Obama are understandably pleased there is another positive dynamic that cannot be ignored.

For too long too many black professional athletes confine their celebrity to selling overpriced sneakers to underserved youngsters. In the alternative they engage in saluting conspicuous consumption while promoting self-destructive behavior. Clearly Mr. Jordan and some of his colleagues have realized that they can be a force for positive change and engagement in the political process which can result in benefits that even the best sneaker can never provide.

Hooray for #23.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 4, 2012

President Obama went to Afghanistan to make history while Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani had pizza in a firehouse in Lower Manhattan. There’s a message in there somewhere, starting with the hypocrisy of Romney and Giuliani being in that firehouse. Meanwhile there are some real head cases in the NBA and its going to get worse before it gets better unless someone starts treating the matter seriously. And finally, Nina Simone wrote a song over fifty years ago entitled “Mississippi Goddamn!” Guess what? The tune still fits.

Lies and Damned Lies

President Obama flew to Afghanistan last week to formalize an agreement whereby U.S. (and NATO) troops will essentially withdraw from that country by 2014. That means that 90,000 American troops will remain in a country where the President of the United States has to fly in and out under the cover of darkness because the place is so dangerous. It also means, however, that finally there is an end in sight to this war born of warped and certifiably insane neo-con strategy.

As fate would have it, President Obama was in Afghanistan on the day that Osama bin Laden was killed pursuant to his direct order one year ago. Predictably, the Teapublican sound machine started the wailing siren, claiming that President Obama was “politicizing” the anniversary and that he was wrongfully taking credit for the actions of the Navy SEALs who actually killed bin Laden.

The G.O.Tea Party has long gone off the tracks of logic and common sense and this most recent reaction/response is one more example. It might help to point out that President George W. Bush played dress up on the navy aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, posing as the fighter pilot that he was supposed that he was supposed to be during the Vietnam War but never was claiming “mission accomplished” in Iraq – after which over 4000 American military personnel were killed and well over a trillion dollars was spent until the nebulous “mission” in Iraq (which ultimately became just getting the hell out of Iraq) was accomplished.

Teapublican stalwarts Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney decided to commemorate the killing of bin Laden by having pizza at a firehouse near Ground Zero. That would be the same Rudy Giuliani who not only politicized the 9/11 tragedy but made a small fortune pretending to be the hero that he never was while simultaneously pretending to be the law enforcement and security expert that he most certainly never was and never will be.

Somehow on the Planet Teapublican, Barack Obama is wrong for taking credit for making bold executive decisions that worked, while Teapublicans can take credit for accomplishments that never existed. No one expects the Disloyal Opposition to be fair, but it would be a welcome change if it would shed the cloak of hypocrisy and try to make some sense.

Headaches in the NBA

Almost two weeks ago Metta World Peace (the basketball mayhem artist formerly known as Ron Artest) of the Los Angeles Lakers blindsided James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the head with an elbow that could have killed him. For readers who think that this is an exaggeration, please keep in mind that Mr. World Peace is 6’6” tall and weighs 250 pounds and is reputed to be one of the strongest men in the NBA.

Fortunately for Mr. Harden his is still alive. Whether he is well is another story as he did suffer a concussion and the recent suicide of football star Junior Seau is a reminder that head injuries can have horrific results years after the actual injury.

In any penitentiary worth its name Metta World Peace would be receiving a righteous beat down for such a cowardly and punk-like move. However, Metta World Peace is not in prison, he is not in jail; he is not in any kind of custody (for his protection or for the protection of the rest of the planet). NBA Commissioner David Stern responded to this attempted murder/aggravated assault on national television by suspending Metta World Peace for seven games. A seven game suspension for an act that would result in a 5-10 year sentence in any city in these United States sends the worst kind of wrong message.

The NBA has countenanced, encouraged and enabled outrageous and potentially murderous behavior. And somehow the young men and women who watched this sad and dismal deed are supposed to understand that wrongful behavior has consequences.

A seven game suspension doesn’t sound like much in the way of consequences or deterrence. Perhaps we should ask James Harden in about ten years what he thinks of David Stern’s decision.

Mississippi Goddamn!

Some recent statistics came to light which sound a lot like old statistics. Mississippi leads the nation in illiteracy. It also leads the nation in obesity and infant mortality. And, for good measure, it also leads the nation in Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

It is a very sad commentary on the quality of life in one of the United States. We should also keep in mind that Mississippi is a Teapublican stronghold that has elected one Republican governor after another for over two decades. And there is little or no indication that Mississippi will change its ways anytime soon.

When you wonder what that country might look like after a few decades of unadulterated Teapublican-approved policies, take a look at Mississippi.

As Nina Simone once sang, “Mississippi Goddamn!”

Have a great weekend!