New Mississippi Law Hearkens Back to Jim Crow Era

By Elizabeth Volpert

America's history has been tainted with discrimination, inequality, and adversity: problems the country has been trying to amend for years. In the previous few decades, America has taken strides in becoming a more racially equal and diverse country. The government has implemented educational and professional policies that are race-conscious, equalized wages, and abolished laws preventing people of color from doing something a white person could do.
However, the US had started moving backwards, and reversing the progress they’ve made. Hate crimes are rising, and the judicial system seems more tolerant of white people than any other race. Most recently, Mississippi has passed a law that many have coined the “modern Jim Crow law.”
On April 21, a law was officially passed in Mississippi that may affect the African-American population of Jackson, Mississippi.
Jim Crow laws were laws that controlled segregation, and ensured its presence in every aspect of Black people’s lives. When first created, the Jim Crow laws stated that all people were equal, but still required separation. This was a false interpretation; in reality, people of color were forced into inferior conditions, and still treated horribly by most whites. Additionally, the fact that they had to stay separate gave the white people a sense of superiority. During the late 1800’s until the mid 1900’s, there were nearly no African-American legislators, so African-Amerians had no control over the laws dictating their lives. The Jim Crow laws disappeared around 50 years ago, after years of people protesting their existence. Now, a similar situation has arisen in Mississippi.
Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, is a predominantly Black city. In fact, 82.47% of the city is African-American, according to the World Population Review. The Jackson community has voted on its police and judicial officials for years, ensuring that somebody objectively holds the positions of power. The passing of the new legislation will make it so that the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court will make this decision instead. The current chief justice, Michael K. Randolph, is a white conservative. To no surprise, the author of the bill is also a white Republican. Chief Justice Randolph will likely select judges and officers that will align with his beliefs.
While it was stated that the bill sought to lower crime rate, the area in which the court is being established had the lowest crime rate in Jackson. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is a strong opponent of the law. He has said that Jackson representatives have requested changes and resources for this purpose before, which have all been declined. This is also not the Mississippi government’s first attempt to strengthen their authority over the capital city. For these reasons, many say that House Bill 1020, and Republicans’ urge to pass it, is racially motivated.
To a majority black and democratic city, this bill means disaster. An already large rift between the Mississippi government and its citizens will only get larger. Many are concerned that the appointed officials will favor and protect the white portion of the city. The fact that this bill will only apply to the city with the largest African-American population, makes its citizens feel pressured and controlled, similarly to when the Jim Crow laws were in motion. While House Bill 1020 has not reached Jim Crow levels, many fear that its influence could lead to harsher race based laws. As the government’s control over Jackson citizens increases, through reasons such as crime prevention, the state can potentially enforce separate districts, stores, courts, etc.
Wendell Paris, a minority rights activist, said that “you can’t take away the power of some of the members of the community and say that you represent a democracy.” Families affected by police brutality are also threatened by the expansion of police activity. Protests are continuing throughout Mississippi and the rest of the country, as more and more leaders are speaking out. There are no plans to veto the bill as of yet, but great efforts are being made.