Mississippi should rid itself of haters

Published 12:03 am Sunday, October 28, 2012

I love Mississippi, deeply. We share blood. We are, as they say, “kin.”

Aside from a great-grandfather who was British, but managed to make his way to Mississippi as soon as he could, all of my relatives for more than 150 years or more are native to Mississippi.

Some branches of our family tree even belonged to the most elder of Mississippi statesmen — the Choctaw and Chickasaw.

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Mississippi’s people, places and things fascinate and intrigue me. Like a small boy looking up to his towering father, I’m in awe of Mississippi’s greatness, beauty and grace.

But like the most torrid loves, our history comes with some tough, bitter moments, too.

Love can turn to hate in a flash. One of those gut strikes hit so hard late Friday night that it hurt.

The pain came without warning; embarrassment quickly followed.

Somehow the TV wound up on ABC’s show “Nightline.”

The feature was on the Ku Klux Klan.

As soon as the announcer announced the story my heart sunk a bit.

Then, momentarily, it picked up again as they talked about a KKK group in Virginia.

Then the gut shot.

The segment turned to another Klan group, this one in Mississippi.

Decades and decades of hard work by thousands of good, non-hate-led Mississippians comes crashing down, trampled with each new sentence uttered by a small band of Klan members.

“I love my race, and I love my people. And if we do not protect our race and protect our people, they’re going to destroy us, they’re going to kill us.”

The guy, who is the head of a Klan group near Tupelo, goes on to say he doesn’t hate black people, but he thinks blacks and whites should be forced to live separately.

The TV interviewer then asks, “If the goal is white separatism, the only way to separate the races is using violence, you’re not going to be able to say nicely, ‘Please leave.’”

“If they will peacefully go, then yeah, but if they won’t peacefully go, the only way is through violence,” the Klan leader said. “It’s through making them go. That’s it.”

“And you’d be willing to be part of that? It’s a race war you’re talking about, essentially?” the TV interviewer asks.

“Very much so,” the Klan guy said.

Describing how this guy’s crazy talk made me feel is difficult — angry, disappointed, confused and frustrated.

Mostly, however, it just made my stomach hurt for the state I love.

How, I thought, can anyone really feel that way, particularly someone who lives in Mississippi?

For any American citizen to suggest separatism is ludicrous. Aside from Native American groups, all of the rest of us are transplants here — either voluntarily in the form of immigrants or involuntary in the form of slaves brought to this country.

Natchez wouldn’t be Natchez, Mississippi wouldn’t be Mississippi and America wouldn’t be America if we all looked alike.

Our diversity makes us better, even as complicated as it may be sometimes as we struggle to understand one another.

Mississippi may, in fact, need a separatist movement. Let’s encourage all of the people who hate others to leave, once and for all.

The rest of us love Mississippi and her diversity.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.