'The Water Crisis Is a Manifestation of Jim Crow Politics' - FAIR

‘The Water Disaster Is a Manifestation of Jim Crow Politics’ – FAIR


Janine Jackson interviewed the Mississippi Speedy Response Coalition’s Makani Themba about Jackson, Mississippi’s disaster for the March 3, 2023, episode of CounterSpin. It is a frivolously edited transcript.



Janine Jackson: So that is CNN on February 17: And forward, the plan to create a court docket system for the rich and principally white elements of Jackson, Mississippi, and separate from the system for the principally Black neighborhood.

It’s arduous to know reply. For certain, it’s good that CNN is selecting to level its nationwide viewers’s consideration to what’s occurring in Jackson. However on the similar time, if it’s not an excessive amount of, why is a deeply anti-democratic, racist motion only a kind of blip on the night information, like a brand new drink at Starbucks?

Mississippi Invoice 1020 provides the state of Mississippi the management to nominate techniques, and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba says it might be lower than sincere to name the trouble “anything other than racist.”

New York Occasions (2/20/23)

Which leads us to headlines just like the New York Occasions on February 21: In Mississippi, Racial Outrage at Court docket Plan. Effectively, CounterSpin listeners will doubtless be attuned to the distinction when journalists use racial when racist can be the extra applicable phrase, and framework, to make use of.

So what does all this imply within the story of Jackson? And what questions and conversations would assist us perceive what’s occurring there, and level us within the path of a helpful response?

Makani Themba is a Jackson resident and a volunteer with the Mississippi Speedy Response Coalition. She’s additionally chief strategist at Larger Floor Change Methods, which relies in Jackson. She joins us now by cellphone. Welcome again to CounterSpin, Makani Themba.

Makani Themba: Effectively, I’m so glad to be again. And I’m so grateful that CounterSpin continues to be going sturdy. Thanks.

JJ: Completely. You already know, we carry on protecting on.

I simply really feel, on this case, that a variety of people would admire some story, some understanding, about what’s truly occurring, and the way we acquired so far.

If I learn reporting right now, it’s about water therapy, after which about governance. However how would you deliver someone on top of things, who was perhaps simply wanting on the newest headlines?

IBW21: Fighting Jim Crow 2.0: Jackson vs the Mississippi State Legislature

IBW21 (3/2/23)

MT: I feel probably the most vital issues to know is that HB 1020, which I do know has gotten a lot of the media consideration, is one among a couple of dozen payments, a dozen payments, that the state legislature and the governor have actually, it looks like a kind of gun. It’s like artillery pointed at our metropolis, to be sincere. It’s like legislative weaponry.

And these payments, which embody 1020, do every kind of harm. 1020, I feel, acquired a variety of people consideration, as a result of it mainly creates a brand new governance construction in the midst of the town that’s a predominantly white space, northeast Jackson. It additionally contains our downtown, the place the Capitol is, and all the way in which as much as the border of Ridgeland, Mississippi, which is the neighboring metropolis, and really right into a portion of Ridgelanda new jurisdiction which is known as the Capitol Complicated Enchancment District.

It initially got here out as a strategy to be sure that the Capitol had assets to do, you realize, gardening, and a few enhancements for beautification. And the state got here again after the Metropolis of Jackson, the residents of Jackson, the mayor of Jackson, had fought actually arduous to get federal {dollars} to lastly come on to Jackson to handle our water points. As a result of cash was coming into the state for water infrastructure, however that cash was not attending to Jackson, regardless that it was a major cause why the cash was coming in.

In order that was the context, proper, that we had been in a position to work with Congress to come back across the state, as a result of they had been blocking the assets; they even created a particular course of, only for the Metropolis of Jackson, to must have approval for using funds that had been devoted to the town.

And so we had been in a position to get round that, and get a large appropriation, about $600 million, truly, to handle what’s a couple of $2 billion drawback. However we had been excited. We had been planning, we had been there.

And it looks like this isn’t solely revenge for determining a strategy to be resilient, and simply deal with the issue with out having to cope with the state and all of their shenanigans, however the set of payments, taken collectively, not solely create this governance construction, [they] take away revenues from the town.

There are different payments that prohibit our use of our gross sales tax income to solely water infrastructure. So we’re not in a position to repair roads, or do anything with it. And there’s no different metropolis with that form of restriction, the place they are saying that is what you spend together with your income, proper? That’s not one thing occurring anyplace else in Mississippi.

It additionally creates a police power that has jurisdiction over the town of Jackson, and over the Jackson Police Division. They usually say the explanation why they’re doing all that is to attempt to deal with the crime in Jackson. However that doesn’t appear to be true, as a result of crime, one, is definitely happening, and when crime was on the file excessive that it was at a few years in the past, the state was not engaged in any respect, besides to make use of it as a strategy to speak dangerous about us.

The opposite factor I feel folks ought to perceive is that Jackson, like many majority Black and majority brown cities, people denigrate these cities and defame these cities as a strategy to devalue, not solely the folks, however the property, the enterprise, the commerce that occurs there, as a result of they don’t need the competitors. So I feel that’s vital for folks to know.

So this entire array of billsthey actually have a invoice that restricts how the mayor can veto issues or not. It’s not simply in regards to the water, as a result of then I feel it might be a distinct form of response.

And the opposite factor is one other invoice that really seizes the cash that Congress allotted to the town, and creates a Regional Water Authority that’s not answerable for addressing the issues in Jackson, it’s solely answerable for receiving the cash.

And the governor could have three votes on this fee. The lieutenant governor, who they’re in lockstep, has two votes. And it is a 9 member fee. The mayor has 4 appointments, however two of them are devoted to 2 different cities, so actually Jackson has two votes on a nine-member regional handoff for cash that was allotted on to the town.

In order that they’re seizing these funds, as they’ve achieved different federal monies. What I additionally need folks to know is, there’s no regulation in opposition to this. Theres no regulation in opposition to this.

JJ: Precisely. So if we had a dialog about neighborhood wants, what would that appear like? Who can be in that dialog? The dialog is like, oh, the neighborhood failed. However that’s not the story. And if we had been going to speak about methods ahead, we might, I consider, embody totally different voices. And I simply need to ask you, what might that dialog appear like?

MT: Initially, I’d like to see extra investigative reporting and fewer punditry about it.

JJ: Say it.

The Nation:     Racism and Discrimination    Environment

Apartheid American-Style

The Nation (2/16/23)

MT: That’s vital. As a result of it’s straightforward to make this, and I do know in my very own writing I discuss this, as a David versus Goliath story. And it’s, in a approach.

Jackson doesn’t have the votes. It is a supermajority Republican state home that does all of the form of sick they need, regardless that, due to the stress from outdoors the state and throughout the state, there’s been some negotiation, however we’re nonetheless going through the brunt of the awfulness that every one of those payments mixed comprise.

However sure, so what occurs with the cash when the federal authorities provides cash to Jackson? Who makes use of it? Why don’t we see it? And why is that OK? And in addition, we’re not the one state that experiences these sorts of shenanigans, this sort of misappropriation of funds. All around the placeMichigan’s an instance, Texas is one other instance.

States make functions to the federal authorities, utilizing the issues of their communities of coloration, that mainly occurred due to the shortage of funding, which is step one. After which the extractionbecause it’s one factor to not make investments, however in Mississippi, they actually extract what they need from the town.

So when this cash is available in, they extract that cash and say, OK, nicely, nice, we’ve acquired this cash, we talked in regards to the issues. And now we’re going to take this cash and make communities that have already got clean roads smoother, have already got good water infrastructure even higher. We’re going to maintain up with that, after which blame the folksfor what they’ve stolen from us.

The place’s the investigative reporting that appears on the paperwork, that FOIAs the applying, that tracks it? And I’m so grateful for the work that the Clarion Ledger has achieved across the welfare scandal, as a result of that may have by no means been uncovered had it not been for investigative reporting.

Makani Themba

Makani Themba: “If there was actually investigative reporting round what occurred in Mississippi, people would see a sample of theft and extraction from the low-income folks, from Black folks, from brown folks.”

However I feel if there was actually investigative reporting round what occurred in Mississippi, people would see a sample of theft and extraction from the low-income folks, from Black folks, from brown folks. It isn’t even that the white communities in Mississippi are benefited, as a result of a lot of them don’t.

I feel that they might uncover that a couple of companies, a couple of folks, a couple of politicians are benefiting from this, and most of the people usually are not. And the way do you may have a state that’s in opposition to Medicaid? Proper? I imply, healthcare for his or her people.

I feel that extra investigative journalism would nail these sorts of tales, and that it’s been investigative journalism up to now thats helped raise up what’s occurring in locations like this.

And you realize, like you concentrate on, we might not know who Fannie Lou Hamer was, if people werent telling the story outdoors of Mississippi. As a result of if it was as much as themI imply, this was a state that was making an attempt to maintain Sesame Road from approaching the air as a result of it was too ahead, too progressive, who truly needed to be sued by people in Mississippiincluding the late Everett C. Parker, who media activists truly get an award in his namethey sued tv stations in Mississippi within the ’60s, as a result of they might actually not present something in regards to the civil rights motion, or the marches, or what was occurring on the information.

They usually needed to sue to power that, and they’d truly block out nationwide information protection in Mississippi of those tales. So we’re coping with an extended legacy.

So journalism is essential, good journalism, investigative journalism, or some folks would say precise journalism, is essential to exposing this sort of theft and dishonesty.

And in addition simply the problems of democracy. What does it imply to be in a state the place there’s a Republican supermajority that doesn’t mirror the proportions of who lives right here in any respect?

Time: The Mayor of Jackson, Miss. Had a 'Radical' Vision for His City. The Water Crisis May Have Put It Out of Reach

Time (9/13/22)

JJ: After I see a headline, like Time journal’s, The Mayor of Jackson, I suppose it mentioned, Had a Racial Imaginative and prescient for His CityOK, all proper, whateverbut the Water Disaster Might Have Put It Out of Attain.

So after I see that headline, what I hear that telling readers is, we tried to do it, and we failed. And so cease eager about that.

So you possibly can solely speak to people who find themselves keen on change, and media are simply perhaps not the way in which to do this. And but so many individuals that we speak to, their agenda, their understanding of what’s politically doable, is ready by media, and it’s media saying, oh, hey, the mayor of Jackson needed to do one thing, however he can’t. And that’s their understanding of, nicely, I suppose we shouldn’t even strive.

MT: Luckily, Time journal just isn’t going to dictate to us what we’d do, thank God. And I feel, in some ways, the world was captivated by Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumbas imaginative and prescient round Jackson being probably the most radical metropolis in America. And that radical imaginative and prescient for the world was very compelling, and in addition the story of Mississippi, proper? The story of Mississippi is everyone’s, deep down.

I feel that him articulating that, when he was first elected, gave people a distinct view for a second, proper, of it is a place the place there’s been resistance. He’s not the primary particular person to articulate that.

The truth is, Mississippi’s radical legacy has roots in Reconstruction. The state had probably the most radical structure within the nation throughout Reconstruction, and a majority Black legislature, all these issues. After which, when the Confederacy took again the state in 1890, that’s the form of governance we’ve been coping with ever since. However they don’t signify the vast majority of the state, they usually by no means have.

And so I feel that it’s not true that the water disaster threatens ourand I’d say, collectively, Jackson’sradical agenda, as a result of one other conference of company media, and oftentimes storytelling, is to cut back it down to at least one particular person, when he was at all times a part of a motion and a legacy and a historical past that many, many, many, many individuals are concerned in.

That what threatens the agenda, so to talk, has been Jim Crow politics, and that the water disaster is a manifestation of Jim Crow politics.

You’ve a water disaster as a result of there’s no funding in infrastructure when there must be, and people choices are racialized.

I feel that’s the opposite piece of the story, is that people usually are not coping with how deeply racialized the work, the legislature’s agendaand I shouldn’t say the entire legislature, let me be clear, the Republicans, as a result of it’s attention-grabbing, in Jackson, nearly all of the Democrats in each homes are Black. Guess why.

So we’ve this basically apartheid method to governance that has been in impact since 1890, with some breakthroughs, with some fights, and the Voting Rights Act was actually essential to serving to issues transfer ahead.

And it’s actually been the parents in Mississippi and Alabama, whose blood was on the road, who made that laws occur, and I need to be clear about that. The entire nation owes Mississippi and Alabama a debt for the elevation of democracy. That’s essential to know.

And so we take a look at that, and I need to see reporting about that racialization, proper? I need to see reporting about how this paradigm of whiteness and anti-Blackness is driving the coverage agenda.

You already know, folks need to name it “Trumpism.” However this was Trumpism earlier than Trump. That is the place he acquired it from.

JJ: This isn’t new.

MT: And Jeff Periods in Alabama, and from this Jim Crow legacy.

And that’s the disaster that we’re in. There can be no water disaster if there was fairness. There can be no water disaster if the state of Mississippi had any form of ethics, and allotted the cash which they acquired from the federal authorities to the locations the place there’s a drawback.

And you concentrate on it, how loopy is it that you simply wont make investments cash the place the issue is, and repair the issue? However that’s form of politics as usualnot simply in Mississippi, however throughout. And that should be the crime.

Jackson is NOT for the Taking!

Jackson Undivided Coalition

Search for the hashtag #jxnundivided. You’ll see that on-line. That may let you realize the place the petition is, and in addition IBW21.org.

I’ve an intensive piece that has how folks can become involved, in addition to a hyperlink to the petition web site. So there’s an article there that has a hyperlink to the petition drive.

We’re asking everyone to please signal and share it. And it additionally goes by way of the record of payments, and there’s two petitions listed on this piece. One is a petition to the state round this assault on Jackson.

The opposite, and that is, I feel, actually vital as nicely, is a petition by the household of Jaylen Lewis. Jaylen Lewis was a 25-year-old Black father of two who was killed by the Capitol Police, mainly execution-style. And his household continues to be searching for solutions.

It occurred in September. There was a witness, who’s why we all know what we all know. However the police themselves haven’t launched any findings, and are presupposed to be investigating it. And so there’s a petition there as nicely for Jaylen Lewis.

And that’s one of many the reason why we’re so involved in regards to the Capitol Police having jurisdiction. They’ve a police chief who’s not accountable to anybody within the metropolis of Jackson. They’re appointed by the legal professional normal of the state.

And so there’s an entire vary of points which might be simply so problematic about this, in order that not solely will we’ve this unelected, once more, governing physique over an enormous half of what is going to then not be part of Jackson, however nonetheless in Jackson, proper, the place we go to downtown, the place we store, all of those sorts of issues.

However we’ll have this occupying power that’s not accountable to any of the residents in any respect, that’s already shot a number of people, and killed one in simply the previous couple of months.

JJ: We’ve been talking with Makani Themba. She’s a volunteer with the Mississippi Speedy Response Coalition, in addition to chief strategist at Larger Floor Change Methods. Thanks once more, Makani Themba, for becoming a member of us this week on CounterSpin.

MT: Thanks.


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