Micro-Progress is a recurring theme here at Better Than Machines, highlighting local-level, "micro" stories of progressive activism and progressive triumphs. You can read more about Micro-Progress at "Introducing Micro-Progress."
(I've been meaning to highlight this story for the last week but have been distracted by the inauguration hubbub.)
On January 18th, the newspaper in Meridian, Mississippi issued an apology for "largely ignoring" past civil rights issues, such as "the unfairness of segregated schools, buses, restaurants, washrooms, theaters and other public places."
The final two paragraphs of the bold editorial:
We did it through omission, by not recording for our readers many of the most important civil rights activities that happened in our midst, including protests and sit-ins. That was wrong. We should have loudly protested segregation and the efforts to block voter registration of black East Mississippians.Current management understands while we can't go back and undo some past wrongs, we can offer our sincere apology -- and promise never again to neglect our responsibility to inform you, our readers, about the human rights and dignity every individual is entitled to in America -- no matter their religion, their ethnic background or the color of their skin.
Across the Web, this story has been greeted with a mix of praise and cynicism. I'm in the former camp. It's true that justice delayed is justice denied. But it's also true that it's never too late to do the right thing. I guarantee that the words in that editorial are more radical in Mississippi than they are across the Internet and on your screen.
Look at the history of slavery across the south, at the suppression of civil rights, and at the continuing racial divide: Mississippi stands out as perhaps the state where racism runs deepest. It's also the state with the lowest median family income, the largest percentage of people below the poverty line, and the highest infant mortality rate. It's the second least educated state, has the highest teen pregnancy rate, and despite its size, ranks fourth in total number of people in privately-run prisons. Oh, and it's the state with the second most unequal income distribution. (statistics from www.statemaster.com)
The people of Mississippi have a tough road ahead of them.
I think the Meridian Star is doing an honorable thing. And I hope they will do more than inform East Mississippians when human rights are being trampled. I hope they will begin revealing how the problems listed above are interconnected, that they will begin untangling those problems and reveal what I believe is at the center: an old, vicious social and political philosophy that is happy to make many people expendable if it benefits a few.
Here's a salute to the Meridian Star for confronting the past and, hopefully, beginning to untangle that knot. That is Micro-Progress in Mississippi.