Prove Me Wrong, Mississippi

If you have read this blog with any frequency, you know I’m from Mississippi.  I am also a woman. (I feel the need to say that one more time because a very kind local business journal linked to my blog, but referred to me as a “he”) I am also white. I bring up the white woman thing because I’m going to talk about race today, and people tend to listen to a Southern white woman talk about race when her speech is not shot through with racial vitriol. Apparently, this breed of Southern white woman is seen as an anomaly in certain parts of the country.

I’ve talked a little about race before. A rather ridiculous poll came out saying there was a rather large percentage of Mississippians who believed interracial marriage should be illegal. I won’t get into it here, but basically I said that was bullshit race baiting and we need to move along because there’s nothing to see here. You can read the piece here if you’re so inclined.

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a CNN story, “Video show white teens driving over, killing black man, says DA.” While I pay attention to news of my home state, I missed this story.  I’m going to give you the text of the story here, but I’m going to talk about the video later. I also want to let you know that there is a racial epithet used here several times. You may be sensitive to it, so I’m letting you know it’s there. I did not redact it because I think it’s an important part of the story.

This is the text of the CNN story as it appears on CNN.com:

On a recent Sunday morning just before dawn, two carloads of white teenagers drove to Jackson, Mississippi, on what the county district attorney says was a mission of hate: to find and hurt a black person.

In a parking lot on the western side of town they found their victim.

 

James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker, was standing in a parking lot, near his car. The teens allegedly beat Anderson repeatedly, yelled racial epithets, including “White Power!” according to witnesses.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith says a group of the teens then climbed into their large Ford F250 green pickup truck, floored the gas, and drove the truck right over Anderson, killing him instantly.

Mississippi officials say it was a racially motivated murder. What the gang of teens did not know was that a surveillance camera was focused on the parking lot that night, and many of the events, including the actual murder of Anderson, were captured live on videotape.

 

CNN has exclusively obtained that surveillance tape. The group of teens that night was led by 18-year-old Deryl Dedmon, Jr., of Brandon, Mississippi, according to police and officials.

 

“This was a crime of hate. Dedmon murdered this man because he was black,” said Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith. “The evidence will show that.”

 

Asked if there could be any doubt whether the intent was to actually hurt and kill a black person, Smith responded: “No doubt about it. They were going out to look for a black victim to assault, and in this case, even kill.”

 

Dedmon led and instigated the attack from early in the evening, he took part in the beating of Anderson, and Dedmon was also the actual driver of the Ford 250 truck that would serve as the murder weapon, according to officials.

 

As the teens were partying and drinking miles away from Jackson that night, in largely white Rankin County, Dedmon told friends they should leave, saying “let’s go fuck with some niggers,” according to law enforcement officials.

 

Then, the gang of teens climbed into Dedmon’s green truck and a white SUV Cherokee, and drove 16 miles down Interstate 20, to the western edge of Jackson, a predominantly black area.

 

The teens would have seen Anderson immediately as they exited the highway, as the parking lot where he was standing is just beside the exit ramp.

 

“This is the first business that you get to coming off the highway and so that was the first person that was out here and vulnerable,” said district attorney Smith.

 

On the videotape, obtained and reviewed by CNN, the group of teens is seen pulling into the parking lot, and stopping where Anderson is standing, though he is just off camera and not visible.

 

The teens can then be seen going back and forth between their cars and Anderson. Witnesses told law enforcement officials this is when the repeated beatings of Anderson took place.

 

Dedmon pummeled Anderson repeatedly as he crumpled to the street, according to officials, though this is not visible in the videotape. Finally, after the beating some of the teens left and some got into the green truck.

At this moment on the video, Anderson becomes visible, as he staggered into view and walked towards the headlights of the truck. The truck suddenly surges ahead, running over Anderson, then continuing at high speed away from the scene.

 

Shortly after he allegedly drove the truck over Anderson, Dedmon allegedly boasted and laughed about the killing, according to testimony given by some of the teens to detectives.

 

“I ran that nigger over,” Dedmon allegedly said in a phone conversation to the teens in the other car.

He repeated the racial language in subsequent conversations, according to the law enforcement officials.

“He was not remorseful he was laughing, laughing about the killing,” said district attorney Smith.

 

Later that morning, James Craig Anderson’s family learned their 49-year-old brother and son died in a hit and run. Only later, when witness statements were taken did they learn the real horror.

 

“It appears there is no doubt that this was a racially motivated killing,” said Winston Thompson, the attorney representing Anderson’s family. “The family is still in shock still in disbelief.”

 

Smith and officials in the Hinds County District Attorney’s office say they plan to indict Dedmon for murder and a hate crime.

 

Deryl Dedmon is thin, weighing a mere 130 pounds, and short — at 5 feet; he has straggly blond hair and piercing blue eyes.

 

The teen, just 18 years old, has been charged with murder and now faces a possible double life sentence. Calls to Deryl Dedmon’s attorney have gone unanswered.

During a bond hearing his attorney told the court he saw nothing to back up the “racial allegations.”

 

At Dedmon’s home, a girl who answered the door pretended not to know him though the pick-up truck he allegedly used as a murder weapon sticks out of the family’s garage.

 

Police say they returned it after the vehicle was processed. A second teen, 18-year-old John Aaron Rice, has been charged with simple assault, for his part in the beating his attorney also did not return calls.

Neither teen has entered a plea.

 

The other teens in the group have not been charged.

 

And James Craig Anderson’s family has decided to remain silent for now, trying to come to grips with a crime they thought was in Mississippi’s past: the murder of a man just because he was black.

 

Here’s a link to the video. I debated about whether or not to watch it, but my friend Desmond said if I was going to write about it, I had to watch it. I’ve seen battlefield footage that disturbed me less than that video.  I sat here and watched a man die by getting plowed over by a truck. He was a man. And then he wasn’t.  He was someone’s son. And then he wasn’t.  And I have to tell you, based on what I’m reading, it looks like he was killed for the indefensible sin of being black.

But what I really want to say isn’t about the crime itself. It’s about Mississippi’s response to the crime. What response? Well, that’s the problem. This happened back in June, but it takes a CNN report to get anyone talking about it.  I asked Desmond, who follows Mississippi news more closely than I, if he knew much about the story. He said, “I read about this in the Clarion-Ledger (the Jackson, MS newspaper) and…at first sounded like the two boys and the man they killed got into some kind of argument, i.e., a drug deal gone bad.” Another friend in Meridian, MS said she heard something about a hit and run, but none of the other “disgusting” details.

After knocking about the Clarion-Ledger site for a while, I came upon a piece by Ronnie Agnew, executive director of the paper. (Although I understand he is leaving this post to work for Mississippi Public Broadcasting) Mr. Agnew said he was taken to task by a reader who wanted to know why the paper was not expressing outrage over the paltry bond set for one of the teens charged in the crime.  Mr.  Agnew sensibly replied that newspapers do not dole out punishment for accused criminals.

But then he went on to say, “The case has received some national attention because of the hate crime allegation. Before those conclusions are reached, there are more basic questions that need answering, such as: What is an 18-year-old from Brandon doing out in the pre-dawn hours in front of a Jackson motel? Was there an altercation with Anderson that precipitated the incident?”

It doesn’t matter. IT DOESN’T MATTER. It doesn’t matter what anyone was doing out. It doesn’t matter if there was a drug deal. It doesn’t matter.  Oh, you got raped? Your skirt was too short. Oh, you got mugged? It’s stupid to carry cash. Oh, you were beaten and run over in a parking lot? You shouldn’t have been in that part of town anyway. Every account of this incident I’ve read talks about how small and frail the defendant looks. That’s supposed to matter? Let me explain this to you, it doesn’t matter how small you may be, when you are in a giant pickup truck, YOU ARE BIGGER AND MORE POWERFUL THAN THE MAN YOU RUN OVER. Is knowing he’s frail and pale supposed to make me feel sorry for him?

You know why people hate us, Mississippi? Because we lie to ourselves. You know why I’m making the giant leap from white kids beating and killing a black man to calling it a hate crime? Because it’s true. So if you want to sit there and wallow in your pity, go ahead. But leave the rest of us out of it. If you want to go on believing that the majority of black crime is perpetrated against white victims, keep your ridiculous, bigoted backwoods ways to yourself. You want to know why Mississippi can’t attract business? Because you steadfastly refuse to send white children to school with black children. Because you think job training is the same as welfare. Because every time someone points out inequality, you get your back up and start prattling on about hate crimes committed in Wisconsin. And you know what, I know it’s true BECAUSE I’VE DONE IT TOO. I’ve tried to say, hey, we’re not all that way. This stuff happens in other places, too. And it does. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is it’s happening in Mississippi. And that’s where I’m from. And we can produce all the Faulkners and Weltys and Andersons we want, but it’s not going to matter as long as we tie ourselves to some ridiculous idea of a simpler time when the Negro knew his place and plantation owners were just misunderstood businessmen.

This crime finally gets attention on Mississippi news stations and all of a sudden the internet lights up with stupid. That’s why people hate us. And, yes, some of the comments I’ve read from black people have been just as disgusting.

I sat here for a while after watching that video and just sort of crumpled. I’m angry. I’m sad. And I feel completely powerless. And no one should have to feel this way.

And, yes, I’m going to let justice take its course. And that probably means that another white man is going to get a smack on the wrist and a stern lecture for killing a black man.

You prove me wrong, Mississippi. You prove me wrong.

41 thoughts on “Prove Me Wrong, Mississippi

  1. “You know why people hate us, Mississippi? Because we lie to ourselves. You know why I’m making the giant leap from white kids beating and killing a black man to calling it a hate crime? Because it’s true.”

    THANK YOU.

  2. Somebody get Kris a Moon Pie and a RC Cola.

    The “why call it a hate crime?” is a classic right wing dodge. And they use that dodge because the simple fact of the matter is, they don’t want to give up racism. Racism is an integral part of their beings; they need to feel morally justified in the way that they think, and to have racism pointed out as the basis for a crime takes a giant swing at their beliefset.

    They want to be racist in their feelings and practices, but they don’t want anyone to point it out to them. And I am a hillbilly from that place in the world where KY, VA, TN, and NC meet, so I think I can speak authoritatively on how a lot of these folks think.

  3. Nah, don’t touch those things. :-) I’ll stand you a sparkling water, though. (one of the cheap kind you get at Kroger).

    Or how about a cyber-“terrorist fist bump”? LOL (a plain ole knuckle-bump, to those of us not consumed with hatred)

  4. I’m still here, Jennifer, still working for a change. Not everyone could stay here (not enough jobs for one thing). Besides, the person you’re complaining to is in Memphis, Mississippi, isn’t she. (wink wink).

    Just because they left or had to leave doesn’t mean they’re no longer Mississippians and no longer have any right to comment on the state of our state. You may not have meant it the way it sounds, but you’re coming off a little peevish. I don’t feel backwards, but I see plenty of backward people around me (and it goes without saying that there are backward people everywhere). If you’re not one of the backward folks, don’t sweat it.

  5. Just one question, and this is for everyone (not just you :) ) WHY does everyone “move away” and “talk” or “complain” about MS? Why not stay here and start change, or just accept the way it is and do not complain! I too am from MS and I HATE the fact that there is STILL a black/white thing, BUT I am doing MY part by staying here and making change! We are all NOT backwoods!

    • Jennifer, my friends who have also moved away and I have this discussion a lot. We wonder what would have happened if more of us stayed, although many did. I still have family and friends at home in Mississippi. But your point is well taken. In fact, in the other piece of mine that this piece links to, I talk about how it seems defending my home state feels like being an apologist.
      I was so mad when I wrote this because–mainly–the executive director of the C-L says we can’t call this what it is until we know what everyone was doing there in that parking lot. And I understand that’s important for trial to establish motive or premeditation or whatever, but that part doesn’t matter right now. Because CNN has run with a story of a black man being run over by a white man in the South. And it hurts (and in this case, I’m speaking about where I live now as well) that more people won’t say EXACTLY what you said which is I hate it and I’m doing my part to stop it. We don’t need to point out that racism exists everywhere, we all know that. So let’s be honest. Just like your comment.
      Ultimately, that you’ve commented on this, is really what I wanted in writing this. When people want to know what I was trying to “prove”, it’s that people like you exist in MS.

      Now, for the record, I went to college in MS, moved to Florida, then moved back to the Jackson area for several years. I was offered a job here I couldn’t say no to, and I had no idea I would stay here this long, but my husband and his children are here, so here I am!

  6. I just discovered your blog today…and I am a white woman from Mississippi. Love this post…you are saying what I believe so many are afraid to say or admit to believing. And we still wonder why the rest of the country looks at MS as a backwoods, good ole’ boy, place?! Sometimes I’m ashamed to admit I live in Mississippi.

  7. I think this is a great post and I thank you for sharing. One of my college buddies is from Mississippi (he is black and is from Jackson, MS) and he had not heard about this story until I told him about it. I was very surprised because, let’s be honest here, I expected a black Jackson resident to have heard about this incident seeing that it happened in his town So, Susan, you are not the only Mississippian who is just receiving details of this story from the CNN report.

  8. Thank you! as a lifetime resident of Mississippi who happens to be white, i must say that this entire episode has shattered my heart and made me physically ill.
    as i grow older and meet people from all walks of life, i have come to the conclusion that there are really only 2 differences in people –
    either you are Good or Bad. period.

    RIP Mr. Anderson, I am truly sorry.

  9. Thank you dear.

    We can’t get past “race relations” to “humanity affirmation” until we are willing to speak truth to power and stand with those who do.

  10. Hi. A friend of mine from Mississippi posted this (I am from Kentucky) and I must say after reading this article and watching the video, my heart absolutely aches. I am not going to lie, reading this then watching the video… I cried. This may have happened in Mississippi, but the fact is it is still happening everywhere! We need to be aware and step up against these types of crimes.

  11. For those reading this that are located both inside and outside of the State of Mississippi, I’d like to apologize for the poster (poseur?) known as “Kris” here. “Kris” is exactly symptomatic of what Susan is talking about in her original message. Defensive, combative, and willing to take ANY stance in his/her attempt to minimize the validity of the hate-crime aspect of this tragedy.

    While, on some sophomoric level, I can understand the fun a troubled person might have in playing devil’s advocate – though this hardly seems the topic or the forum that your normal blog flamer might choose.

    Perhaps Kris would understand better the true nature of a hate crime if the shoe were on the other foot. By lampooning the situation, Kris has displayed for all his (or her?) true colors. Using words like “liberal” and phrases like “write us a book” and “pretty sure that all murders are hate crimes” (really???), it is clear that Kris is either an undereducated racist bigot (in the vein of your garden-variety, cross burning redneck) or simply a “conservative” sympathizer. In either case, it is a blessing to have him/her join this conversation.

    Some people from outside the South have never had the chance to hear the twisted logic and fearful defensiveness that some idiots from our great state spew. The imagery Kris conjures with his/her references to “…dreaming fondly of an economy based primarily on cotton and poverty…” not only was pulled from thin air, it sounds strangely autobiographical, doesn’t it? Welcome, Kris!! You are now in the spotlight, not unlike the five-legged calf at the county fair. Please DO continue.

  12. I’m having a hard time understanding what your overall point is, but I do disagree with one of them: “This happened back in June, but it takes a CNN report to get anyone talking about it.”

    This is not true. Just because the ONE PERSON you asked had not heard about the story does NOT mean that Mississippians have not heard about this incident or have not been talking about it. I am a Mississippian, and I heard about this from my stylist in a Mississippi salon right after it happened. Everyone was and has been appalled.

    This guy deserves to rot in jail for the murder that he committed. And, if the evidence proves that he in fact drove to Jackson specifically to commit a crime against a black person, then it absolutely it should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

    So again, I’m not sure what your point is. Dedmon will be indicted by the Hinds County District Attorney’s office for murder and a hate crime. He will get what he deserves.

    • Yes, I have to agree with LC. just because your little world didn’t expose you to this crime doesn’t mean it took CNN to expose it. It was actually on national Fox News back in July. We in Jackson have known about it since the day after it happened and 99.9% of us are outraged. There will always be that .01% of retards that are racists. Case in point, the Wisconsin fair mob needlessly attacking white fair goers and the recent attacks on white people in Philadelphia. In these cases it was organized black mob violence against white people. Unfortunately, there will always be a small group of people that resort to violence based on race, sex, religion, etc. Here in Jackson it was two stupid racist scums. The DA will prosecute these criminals when a grand jury is called. Justice will be served. But, to present your story as some kind of moral arbitrator as to all things Mississippians care or don’t care about is faux outrage and a bit elitist in nature. I’m glad you care about the issue. I agree that these kids are two-bit racist thugs. May they rot in hell. But, I do not need you to judge all Mississippians based on an isolated incident or a stupid skewed poll. That said, I will defend your First Amendments rights to the death for you write what you want. Your blog, your views… my response.

    • Lisa, I think you were right that I was not clear about how much I had looked for information on this case. In addition to asking two friends what they knew of it, I also went through archives of two Jackson television stations and the newspaper as well as just plain old Googling it. And while I understand there has been coverage, for someone not able to watch local Jackson news every night, trying to find anything other than the CNN report or a reprint of the CNN report is difficult. The thing about not being a journalist is I only have access to the information an average person has.

  13. Kris, i’m not sure what your points are here. i think we’re all “pretty positive” in the socially moral way that to kill someone is inherently a hate crime and that there should not be any varying degrees of sexual violation, but in the legal realm which is what I believe susan was involving since she cited the cnn report and its detailing the local police and law office’s actions as well as just the history of race and the law in this country, most murders are very much NOT hate crimes and rapes are actually quite varied: statutory, stranger rape (rare), date rape (high), sexual assualt/molestation/sodomy vs. first degree rape and that’s just the tip of the iceberg i.e. whether there were drugs involved or not.

    as for hate crime, just go to findlaw.com which cites merriam webster: “a crime that violates the victim’s civil rights and that is motivated by hostility to the victim’s race, religion, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender.” i’m sure you and i would agree that to attack someone is to inherently violate his/her’s civil rights so that’s where the “AND” in the definition matters since most crimes including murder are not motivated by the latter clause and are more motivated by, sadly, instances of greed, psychosis, insurance (it’s a shockingly high #), accident.

    now perhaps you’re adding fuel to the fire by being a mississippian and assuming all murders are hate crimes but i won’t go there and i’ll just assume your gross misjudgments are simply based on a general sense of kind humanism without taking into account that we live in a law-based (among other things) society.

    i didn’t make these up, have fun in your local library.

  14. i’m new here and love love love this post. kris, in your final comment “But, considering the myriad acts of violence and crime embedded in our culture, why should this violent act be more worthy of the limelight than another?” you’ve actually proved Susan right AGAIN. when she mentions y’all put your backs up? i’d say that’s pretty much backing up right there. shes calling what was deemed a hit and run two months ago A HATE CRIME and, more importantly, that the details reported seem to want to back off this terming, as well. of course there are myriad acts of violence — this is a HATE CRIME. so, to really answer your question, take it up with your local, state, and federal government as a HATE CRIME is legally mandated to receive more “limelight” than the other. ..and sorry i have to say this, real nice and tactless of you to ask that with words such as “limelight” when it is such a vicious HATE crime. i won’t generalize here, you’re not making yourSELF look good here at all. who goes on a post about a hate crime in mississippi and then complains about it being about a hate crime in mississippi? really?

    • I’m pretty positive that most murders are hate crimes, just as I am pretty positive that there are no varying degrees of rape. I disagree with you and Susan, but congratulations, I’m sure your comment has added a considerable amount of piss-and-vinegar to the fire.

      • There are degrees of rape. Statuary, date, Sexual assault in the 1rst, 2nd and 3rd degree.

        And “most” murders are murders of passion. Not hate. Most murders occur between people who know one another, generally family members.

        Haven’t you ever heard of 1rst degree Murder? 2nd Degree? Manslaughter? All of these are types of murder, all have different motives.

        In America we prosecute for motive. And HATE should be worthy of it’s own motive category. Because noone should be murdered just because you “hate” some race. That’s beyond evil.

  15. If the intent of your post is for Mississippians to proudly proclaim the beauty of “true” Mississippi residents, you are failing horribly. However, after re-reading your post, per your suggestion, I must apologize for missing your general intent: a lack of moral outrage within Mississippi.

    But, considering the myriad acts of violence and crime embedded in our culture, why should this violent act be more worthy of the limelight than another?

    • It’s not just this act, it’s all the collective acts and the complicit silence which acquiesces to the deeds. This is but the latest episode in the ongoing saga of what Gunnar Myrdahl termed the American Dilemma: race. God bless you.

    • Kris, I taking a wild guess here that you are turning this woman’s heartfelt crusade to find what’s RIGHT with Mississippi into a case of “stump the presenter”. Go back to your cabin in the woods, cracker. If you are not part of the solution, you are (clearly) part of the problem.

    • Because Kris we are in the year 2011. Killing a man over the color of his skin should NEVER happen. and if this story doesn’t get “limelight” then the next one won’t or the next or the next. BTW by giving this story “limelight” just maybe there won’t be a next time!

  16. Kris. your comment proves her point beyond a shadow of a doubt. And believe you me, I know PLENTY of Mississippians who are not racist; it’s bastards like these murderers who reinforce the point.

  17. While both the video and crime itself are truly horrific, your response to it is nothing more than the typical overextending hysteria of a liberal Southern white woman. Perhaps in your spare time, you’ll feel free to write us a book in which you, the Southern White Liberal Heroine, will school us on racial relations in the vein of “The Help” or “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Until then, please don’t hastily judge the entire state of Mississippi by assuming that all white male Mississippians in power (e.g. law enforcement) are secretly members of the KKK, who love nothing more than to award idiotic racist white teens for their murderous antics with low bonds and short jail time. Despite what Hollywood and morons like the Reverend Jesse Jackson would have us believe, most of the residents of Mississippi, white or otherwise, are not racist, backward, or always dreaming fondly of an economy based primarily on cotton and poverty.

    • I would ask you not only to reread this post, but the post I wrote which referenced exactly your point– the point you make about most Mississippians not being racist. My point in writing this is not, as you would believe, to expunge some white liberal guilt. Nor do I appoint myself the savior or creator of a post-racial Mississippi. What I AM is a Mississippi native OUTRAGED that two racist teens–racist teens being your term–killed a man and it takes media outside the state (in this case CNN) to give it any national attention. And where, exactly, did i accuse law enforcement of being in the KKK?
      My point is completely underscored by your comment. Instead of saying we should be ashamed of hate crimes, instead of saying we have racial issues and we need to do something about that, we blame it on everyone else because we’re poor old misunderstood Mississippi. Perhaps if more Mississippians would stand up and say this is not right. This is NOT what I know in Mississippi, we could change the way we’re seen so the rest of the country’s “insight” into Mississippi isn’t some pop-culture word vomit like “The Help”. The bottom line is white people DO have to stand up and say THIS IS WRONG. My challenge to Mississippi is for its people to say THIS IS NOT MISSISSIPPI.
      So if you want to prove me wrong, please do. And do it here. Tell me a story about REAL Mississippians. Because that’s my point. THAT is the story that needs to be told.

Just spit it out, already!

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