The Challenge in Mississippi: Can Segregationists Be Taught a Better Way?

Words by Kokayi Nosakhere

“Speak in terms the people can understand,” Minister Malcolm X taught us. The people are programmed to think in/through capitalism. Capitalism speaks in four steps.

Step One: Raise awareness of a problem.

Step Two: Explain the nature of the problem.

Step Three: Offer a solution.

Step Four: Follow the consent model of contract negotiations.

 

Raise Awareness of the Problem:

The following is real news. It is not fake news. It is real news.

Mississippi’s Senator elect, Cindy Hyde-Smith, is a segregationist. On Tuesday, November 27, she won a seat she previously occupied via Governor  appointment.

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Sen. Hyde-Smith’s gaffe made national news.

I want to say she is a racist, however, I do not have the proper evidence to apply said label. There is plenty of evidence of her being a segregationist. An article published by the Jackson Free Press last week vanished all doubt to the contrary. With her election,  her supporters have very little material to defend their candidate with. She wants to practice segregation, the very same segregation her parents grew up and she was born into. How do we know? Her parents circumvented integration and found a segregated school for their daughter to graduate from in 1975, when Cindy was 16 years old. Then, Cindy repeated the practice, graduating her daughter from an all-white school in 2015.

Exhibit B is her proposed legislation  to honor a Confederate soldier.

Exhibit C is the now infamous “public hanging” gaffe.

Exhibit D is the “voter suppression” video.

The news cycle is evidence Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is not alone. She has a long resume in Mississippi politics. She did not win a considerable share of the vote, just enough of it like Brian Kemp did in Florida. House Representative Steve King retained his seat in Iowa. Vermont’s Bernie Sanders pointed towards the systemic nature of the white voter “problem” and spent a lot of social capital to provide clarity to his remarks. White America is experiencing an emotional reaction to changing demographics. Without intervention, as they see less and less of society reflecting them, the “tribal” anxiety they feel will increase.

Last week, in Phoenix, Arizona a Puerto Rican woman used her cell phone to document a racist encounter with an unidentified White woman.

A second African American man legally carrying a gun was shot by police responding to an active shooter scenario, this time inside of a mall.

These racist incidents are not going away, nor do they appear stimulated by only politics. Some White people are triggered by the existence of people of color (PoC). “I want the whole country to be White!” the White woman ranted at the Puerto Rican woman in Phoenix.

I included the following caption, over Facebook when I shared the Puerto Rican woman’s story, “Who is going to be brave enough to teach her?” referencing the unidentified White woman.

The answers given in the comments amount to the freedom of resignation Dr. King mentions in reference to Negros living under Jim Crow. The violence was so oppressive, the only psychological relief was/is to relax inside of the bondage; a certain faux acceptance of the situation; a method of enduring the pain. Intergrationist White Americans can see what the Alt-Right is doing and feel impotent to address racist thoughts and actions among family members, let alone total strangers.

PoC asking an intergrationist White person to speak/intervene/heal a segregationist, just because of shared “whiteness” doesn’t wash two generations after the Civil Rights Movement. Integrationist White persons do not feel like the woman in the Phoenix video wish to be taught. Those White persons want to be racist and will hurt a White person just as fast as they will a PoC. Hate is hate.

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Explain the Problem:

I have never been able to teach anyone anthing by beating them up or down. A person, irrespective of race or ethnicity, must be inspired to enter a receptive state to be taught. The person must feel safe, meaning not under direct attack emotionally, psychologically or physically. Otherwise, they become defensive and stubbornly cling to their undesirable “thought forms.”

Our more cautious White friends and allies are also correct about the deep-seated nature of the social programming Hyde-Smith’s personality is exhibiting. It is the culture of segregation. Three generations of Americans, North and South, practiced it.

Unfortunately, culture standards and lived experiences don’t go away because Dr. King delivered a social justice sermon. Nor is changing legislation, words on sheets of paper, evidence of social change. Just like the Civil War is internalized by the Southern states differently than the Northern states remember the contest, so is the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King makes mention, in his last book, about a necessary spiritual renewal before the mechanics of social engineering have any potency.

Calling someone a segregationist nowadays comes with consequences. Two generations ago, that wasn’t the case. Hyde-Smith’s parents don’t know what we are talking about. Cindy was born on May 10, 1959, that’s three and one half years into the Civil Rights Movement. Segregation is all her parents knew.

Legendary television news personality Mike Wallace aired a five part mini-series on the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1959 entitled, “The Hate that Hate Produced.” Society was so segregated, a Negro reporter named Louis Lomax and a Black cameraman were the only ones the NOI allowed to interview its leadership. The reversal of roles appeared to rattle Wallace. Here was a group of Negroes “acting white,” i.e. favoring their race over others.

By choosing to not fight the practice of segregation, like its appears the Civil Rights Movement was doing, the NOI created a position and fame, albeit temporarily, for a Negro reporter at a major New York news outlet.

Wallace, a journalist the 13 year old Donald Trump should trust, is shook to learn a Negro organization exists designed to protect Negroes using a strategy of disciplined withdrawal from White American society. Nor was Wallace the only one crashing into the wall of self-determination animating Generation 8’s 22 million Negro population. Interest in the mini-series was so great, the show aired twice. 1959 is the fourth year of the Civil Rights Movement. Enough activity across the country was happening to where it’s hard to imagine the Hyde family escaped the impact.

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Offer a Solution:

Considering the confused reaction by the Neo-Nazis following Charlottesville – who would be the same age as Hyde-Smith’s children – we can conclude the response by 1959 White America to the Civil Rights Movement was also confusion.

Dr. King writes about said confusion in Stride Towards Freedom, his account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Montgomery Advertiser’s editorial board did a great job of framing the issue throughout the entire 381 day battle. Negro Montgomery found fault with segregation, not the idea of law or the democratic process. White Montgomery wanted to practice segregation and the Negro population no longer wanted to participate in the such inequality.

Dr. King faced the awesome challenge of helping his “sick White brothers and sisters” grasp the idea that “Whites Only” and “Colored Only” drinking fountains were morally wrong: oppressive in nature. Elementary school children in 2018 enter confusion looking at the newsreels from 1959. How could their great grandparents’ generation not see segregation as oppression? Two generations later the signs scream oppression. The answer lies in the concept of American “whiteness”, or, as Dr. King called it, “eating Jim Crow.”

Unlike what we are doing with the far-right, Dr. King offered his opponents a way out. He opened the door for  them to leave whiteness and become better Americans. Why do you think he kept repeating the foundational lines of the Republic? Through trial and error, he found the ideology his “opponents” reinforced among themselves. He choose to ask them to help build the meritocracy they preached the Constitution is set up to create.

In White Montgomery “thought forms,” the United States is the greatest country on earth. It permits the average white person the ability to defend himself or herself from abuse. (Listen closely the next time you are in a debate with a Conservative.) Capitalism permits a white person to establish a relationship web of resources, which, again, they can defend from abuse. Challenging this basic ideology is a fool’s errand. All said challenge does is inspire a defensive, stubborn response.

This is your ideal, the Civil Rights Movement said – whether the right side (NOI) or the left side (SCLC) – live up to it.

 

Follow the Consent Model:

Mind you, the Civil Rights Movement, also said, we do not have to live with you peacefully while you grow towards your ideal. “Peace is not the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice,” Dr. King wrote.

The wisdom of the boycott tactic was not lost on the Montgomery Advertiser. In September 1955, the White Citizens Council conducted a boycott against Negro Montgomery. The Advertiser warned at the time the Council’s campaign would backfire.

In defiance of segregation, Dr. King effectively created an alternative public transportation system for Negro Montgomery to be able to boycott the White Montgomery-owned bus company for over a year. First he employed the Negro-owned taxi company. When he needed to purchase vehicles, he did not go to the White Montgomery dealership. He went to the Negro one. When he needed to purchase insurance, he did not go to a White Montgomery insurance person, or company. He went to the Negro one. When he needed vehicle maintenance, he did not go to a White Montgomery auto garage. He went to the Negro-owned ones.

It is this level of organizing, a protective withdrawal from interaction with White persons, that elicits an intense emotional charge. Some form of this reaction is heard daily over social media. “You are using racism against me! Racism doesn’t cancel racism. How is this progress. This is injustice!”

Economic deprivation is real. It is more real than any political ideology or cultural standard. Colonialism proved inside every country it invaded that when a person becomes hungry, they are capable of switching entire worldviews, let alone religion. Over 381 days, as Negro Montgomery profited from the economic unity, the pain of hunger and debt crushed White Montgomery just as resoundly as the guns of the Civil War did.

White Montgomery internalized the bus boycott as an illegal campaign. They were forced against their will to concede treating Negro Montgomery more humanely. The boycott did not inspire the receptivity necessary for teachability. On this front, Dr. King kept everyone alive, but wounded his “sick White brothers and sisters” in ways they could not publicly articulate.

The same can be said about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Ask Mike Epsy and Stacy Abrams about their experience in 2018?

 

Towards a Healing

What is the solution? For persons like Cindy Hyde-Smith to feel a place for them remains in America, we need to give them all-White spaces to feel safe in. Let them segregate. In doing so, they will identify themselves. They do not give their consent to be among Integrated America.

Do I have faith that eventually, such persons will feel safe enough to join the rest of us? “Yes, I do.” I just don’t know how to inspire a significant portion of integrationist White America to believe that segregationist White America can heal.

The way the segregationist mind is set up, only White people can negotiate the social contract with them. Only other White people can hold them well enough to where they do not feel forced to conform to integration; to be politically correct.

Are they teachable? My counter question is, “Cindy is someone’s sister, cousin, auntie, mother and potentially grandmother. She has family. I am not asking you to talk to a sitting Senator. I am asking you to view her as a human being, who is scared and doesn’t know how to self-actualize in a society where she has to compete with everyone else. The game is not rigged towards White people. She is scared. She does not know how she will access significant resources in a capitalistic society if the game is not rigged for White people. Can you show her how to self-actualize on an equal playing field?”

Yes, we can. (Ahem.)

You can do this. After all, Dr. King did it. He reached the space where he could speak human to human with his oppressors, while being the trigger itself. Surely, you, a fellow White person can speak to your brother, cousin, uncle, father, or grandfather about how they can make American great by living up to America’s high ideals. The rest of us are cheering you on.

You are our last best hope to avoid the third Civil War on American soil.

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