When one thinks of major U.S. cities with large Black communities, the places that usually top the list include Detroit (which is 77 percent Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), Baltimore (62 percent Black), Atlanta (48 percent Black) and Gary, Indiana (78 percent Black). But Jackson, Mississippi is 82 percent Black, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. And Mississippi Today reports that Mississippi’s capital city could end up with a “separate court system and an expanded police force” that would be “appointed completely by white state officials.”
Although Jackson’s city government leans Democrat, Mississippi is a deep red state. And the Mississippi State Legislature is dominated by white Republicans.
In an article published by Mississippi Today on February 7, reporters Bobby Harrison and Adam Ganucheau explain, “If House Bill 1020 becomes law later this session, the white chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court would appoint two judges to oversee a new district within the city — one that includes all of the city’s majority-white neighborhoods, among other areas. The white state attorney general would appoint four prosecutors, a court clerk, and four public defenders for the new district.”
In addition, Harrison and Ganucheau report, “The white state public safety commissioner would oversee an expanded Capitol Police force, run currently by a white chief. The appointments by state officials would occur in lieu of judges and prosecutors being elected by the local residents of Jackson and Hinds County — as is the case in every other municipality and county in the state.”
Mississippi State Rep. Ed Blackmon, a Democrat, bitterly opposed HB 1020, saying, “Only in Mississippi would we have a bill like this.… where we say solving the problem requires removing the vote from Black people.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba was even more scathing in his view of 1020 when, on February 7, he said, “It reminds me of apartheid.”
Harrison and Ganucheau point out that Mississippi House districts are seriously gerrymandered. According to the reporters, “Mississippi’s Legislature is thoroughly controlled by white Republicans, who have redrawn districts over the past 30 years to ensure they can pass any bill without a single Democratic vote. Every legislative Republican is white, and most Democrats are Black. After thorough and passionate dissent from Black members of the House, the bill passed 76-38 Tuesday primarily along party lines.”
Featured image: Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves in 2022 (Creative Commons)