Last week, the that the state’s online portal, the only source for assessing caseload numbers, suggests other counties have far more pressing problems than Jackson—but there have been no bills filed to take over those cities.
“As we began running reports on criminal dockets, it appeared to us that the backlog in Hinds County was not significantly worse than many other places in Mississippi. In fact, our research showed that” other counties had more outstanding cases than Hinds, Johnson told Mississippi Today. “Our conclusion at this point is that the legislature could not have made the decision to appoint five temporary judges to the Hinds County Circuit Court based on any meaningful analysis of that court’s dockets as compared to the dockets in any other circuit.”
“From the beginning, that has been the idea driving this bill—that Black folks need white oversight.”
Above all, if Lamar and his colleagues cared at all about what’s best for Jackson, they might have spoken with any Black residents or officials.
Black Democrats have noted that Lamar did not solicit input from a single member of their delegation, as is standard. At a special hearing held by Jackson Democrats just last week, the Black assistant chief of the city’s police, Joseph Wade, stated the meeting was “the first time that we’ve been invited to the table to discuss this bill.” Gail Lowery, Hinds County’s Black public defender, testified her office had never been asked “about what our real needs are or to paint a picture about what we’re struggling with to provide constitutional protections to the accused.” District Attorney Jody Owens stated he does not support either version of the bill, because without funding more prosecutors, Jackson police or the state’s long financially strapped crime lab—which was granted just $300,000 under the current bill—court delays will continue.
Lamar claims he reached out to Jackson’s Black mayor, Chokwe A. Lumumba, but received no response. Lumumba rejects that contention.
“It simply means that my feedback as mayor of the City of Jackson just wasn’t valuable enough,” Mayor Lumumba told Mississippi Public Radio in February. “When [Lamar] talked about the reason why he thought judges should be appointed, he said ‘Well we want to get the best and the brightest.’ That statement represents that we’re just not smart enough, we’re not aware enough of what we need and what our concerns are.”
From the beginning, that has been the idea driving this bill—that Black folks need white oversight. It is the only assumption that could make such legislation, and the brazen effort to install white power where it has neither been elected nor requested, seem like the right move.
Not to mention that in their haste to overthrow Jackson’s leaders and stake their claims on the capital city themselves, Mississippi’s white Republicans seem to have been willing to violate the state’s constitution, inviting lawsuits from the NAACP, Legislative Black Caucus, and the ACLU—among various other groups.
Perhaps because they have been largely unstoppable in the recent past—decades of rigorous gerrymandering and voter suppression having concentrated their power—the state’s Republicans can afford to be shamelessly transparent, engaging in what Themba calls a politics of “extraction.”
It’s a strategy that hurts Black Mississippians most of all, but in the end, keeps the state as a whole at the bottom in areas from education to health care. This seems like more of the same.
“Mississippi has an issue with investing in its residents, in terms of the state legislature. They tend to do things that benefit a few. And it’s not just Black residents they diss. They diss poor white folks, too. And they use these weird social policies as a way to curry favor,” Themba told me. “If they could just take a moment and see this place, and us, its people, as assets, and not just something to be taken apart and sold for parts, it could be a whole different reality. But, of course, they’d have to recognize us as co-residents in this state. And they’d have to see us as human beings.”