My mother was born in 1950 in Mississippi. I’ve been to Mississippi. There are still brothers trying to escape to freedom from Mississippi.
Today the big story (at least in liberal circles) is that Mississippi finally officially ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, after two Ole Miss employees saw the movie Lincoln and decided to look into why their state hadn’t officially ratified the amendment. You can’t make that up: Mississippi needed a Spielberg movie to remind them to ratify the amendment banning slavery. I can’t wait till Mississippi sends an expedition to Isla Nublar to check into this whole
“dinosaur situation” “Jesus Horse situation.”
You can see why liberals love this story. It’s the perfect deep south story: a tradition of holding people in bondage, slow response times, and incompetence.
And I’d leave it at that.
Except that as the Supreme Court gears up to eviscerate the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act, it’s important to remember that not all states are created equal….
First, I guess we should applaud Mississippi for finally getting its act together. From the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:
On Dec. 6, 1865, the [Thirteenth A]mendment received the three-fourths’ vote it needed when Georgia became the 27th state to ratify it. States that rejected the measure included Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey and Mississippi.
In the months and years that followed, states continued to ratify the amendment, including those that had initially rejected it. New Jersey ratified the amendment in 1866, Delaware in 1901 and Kentucky in 1976.
But there was an asterisk beside Mississippi. A note read: “Mississippi ratified the amendment in 1995, but because the state never officially notified the US Archivist, the ratification is not official.”
That clerical error wasn’t corrected until two Ole Miss employees looked up the asterisk after seeing Lincoln.
I know it doesn’t matter (even though Mississippi is one of those states that doesn’t seem to understand what the SUPREMACY CLAUSE means whenever the conversation turns to health care or gun safety). It’s not like you could still legally hold slaves in Mississippi until five minutes ago.
But what’s shocking about this story isn’t the fact that Mississippi just got around to fixing this oversight. It’s the fact that Mississippi didn’t bother to take the symbolic gesture of ratifying the damn amendment until 1995. One imagines that as recently as 1980-something, somebody in Mississippi said, “We should ratify the Thirteenth Amendment,” and somebody else said, “Naw. Screw them Ni**ers.” If it’s symbolic to ratify the thing, isn’t it arguably more symbolic to not ratify it?
Again, it’s only important because the essence of pre-clearance (which just states that most of the former Confederacy needs to get federal approval before changing laws that affect voting rights) is that some states can’t be trusted. Sorry guys, but you used to hold an entire people in bondage, then rose up and rebelled for the right to keep those people in chains, then — after William Tecumseh Sherman righteously burnt your whole mess to the ground — you erected the entire legal framework of Jim Crow to further deprive people of their basic rights, so now you have to ask for permission, you racist a$$holes.
The counter-argument to that from Southern sympathizers is essentially the Shaggy defense: “It wasn’t me.” It’s funny, the states that are most into their own history, culture, and traditions want us to ignore their history, culture, and traditions when it comes to depriving citizens of the right to vote.
And this seems like the appropriate time to remind people that Mississippi just officially ratified the Thirteenth Amendment! Whether you want to say that it took them until 2013 or if you want to give them credit for their 1995 attempt, there are people alive in Mississippi today who knew that the state hadn’t done this yet and were perfectly okay with that.
So excuse me if I still don’t trust Mississippi. Excuse me if I don’t think that a state where it was still legal to discriminate against entire populations of people as recently as my mother’s lifetime should still have to ask somebody before they can change its voting laws. Excuse me if I think that a state where people started a race riot after Obama’s reelection should be held a little suspect on questions of racial equality.
Excuse me if I think that racial harmony in Mississippi shouldn’t be based on whether or not some Ole Miss students decided to go see Lincoln or Django.
Historic oversight corrected: Film ‘Lincoln’ inspires look into slavery vote [The Jackson Clarion-Ledger]