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Back the Badge

 

‘Back the Badge’ May Back Civilians into a Corner

April 6, 2017 – Last month, Mississippi’s Republican governor signed a controversial new bill manufactured to empower state law enforcement, potentially setting the stage for new, harsher sentences for people that police accuse of crimes of violence against law enforcement.

House Bill 645—which is now law—declares that “every person convicted of a crime of violence … upon a peace officer, emergency medical technician or first responder while such person is acting in his or her official capacity … shall, upon conviction … be punished by a term of imprisonment of up to three times that authorized by law for the violation, or a fine of up to three times that authorized by law for the violation, or both.”

The bill was largely supported by white legislators who claim the law exists solely to discourage violence against emergency workers or law enforcement. Attorneys who frequently defend suspects caught up in police bureaucracy, however, see it a differently.

“(The law) gives far too much latitude for (police) to interpret frustration or freedom of speech in a way that could violate the constitutional rights of individuals, just because they disagree with law enforcement,” said attorney Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “I want to see people protected in every walk of life, including law enforcement officers, but people forget that law enforcement officers are people, too. They have good and bad days, just like us.”

Lumumba, who is running for mayor of the city of Jackson, said police are human, and are therefore just as capable of misrepresenting incident accounts as any suspect, and could exaggerate police/civilian encounters to look like a crime of violence. Without proper vetting from an attentive defense team, many angry or vindictive officers’ overblown descriptions could easily reach a jury and sway it. This likelihood increases in a justice system, like Mississippi’s, that pits a woefully-inadequate public defense system against a well-funded prosecution team.

More than 10 years ago, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) issued a report revealing how legislators’ refusal to contribute to the defense of the poor “created a system that consistently ranks among the most poorly funded in the nation.” According to the 2003 LDF report, Assembly Line Justice, inadequate indigent defense funding “[leads] to a poorly organized, patchwork system.”  Since 2003, only a handful of Mississippi counties now have an office staffed by one or more full-time public defenders. Instead, most counties contract part-time defenders who have their own day jobs running private practices, or they appoint private attorneys to represent defendants on a case-by-case basis. Many of these private attorneys admit that they do not have the resources to compete with a full-time prosecution team.

Several black and Democratic lawmakers opposing the legislation during debate a few months ago referenced multiple accounts of police racial profiling black citizens.

Rep. Chris Bell giving accounts of racial profiling. Photo credit: Jackson Free Press

Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson, hinted at bill advocates’ disingenuous police support when white lawmakers repeatedly failed to approve his amendment to the bill giving law enforcement officers a 10 percent raise. White lawmakers were also unwilling to add additional charges against police found guilty of covering up any crime against a person or persons and shot down Greenville Rep. John Hines’ amendment to do just that.

The white House majority passed the bill and voted down black lawmakers’ every attempt to amend it, including Jackson Reps. Earle Banks and Adrienne Wooten, and Belzoni Rep. Rufus Straughter—all of whom are Democrats.

The shift to further empower and embolden police officers in Mississippi follows the mood of Republican President Donald Trump, who may view the massive nationwide protests of his many discriminatory decisions as a threat to his presidency. Trump described massive marches against him in November as “Very unfair,” on Twitter, and then dismissed protestors as “professional protesters, incited by the media,” and allegedly funded by shadow groups—none of whom he has managed to unmask, despite considerable White House access to information and resources.

Trump’s White House also adopted a hardline policy against suspects targeted by police by endorsing opposition to “the dangerous anti-police atmosphere;” an atmosphere that the president has also never managed to prove exists. With his new “Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community” declaration, Trump proclaimed that the government’s job “is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter.” Some critics have taken that as an outright threat to protestors.

To learn more about Mississippi criminal justice bills, click here.

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors. For more information about the Mississippi NAACP or news stories, call 601-353-8452 or log on to www.naacpms.org. Like us on Facebook by searching Mississippi NAACP and follow us on Twitter @MSNAACP.

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Scott County Schools Getting Special Conservatorship Treatment

2014/02/27 – Some legislators are crying foul at a series of attempts to preserve the accreditation of a school falling under conservatorship, while letting majority black schools suffer.

“I think that what’s happening in this situation is the skill of influence,” said Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville. “What’s good for the goose should always be good for the gander, but that’s not what I’m seeing here.”

Under current state law and Mississippi Board of Education standards, any school failing its accreditation due to falling grades or sloppy financial stewardship runs the risk of getting placed under conservatorship by the state.  The Mississippi Department of Education directly takes over the governing of a district under conservatorship, often dissolving the locally-elected or appointed board of education in the process.

A second, more unfortunate, consequence of a district falling under conservatorship is the loss of accreditation, which subsequently leads to many students losing their chance to participate in sports-related activities and tournaments, including basketball and football.

State lawmakers tried to pass legislation in February that would keep a district’s athletic programs from being punished in the event of a state takeover.  Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, failed to amend an education bill allowing students in conservatorship districts to still participate in extra-curricular activities, so long as their school retains a Grade A or Grade B status.  The situation would apply specifically to Scott County Schools because Scott County fell under conservatorship for statute violations rather than grade failure.

Rep. Ed Blackmon, D-Canton, said the amendment appeared preferential, because of the presence of an nationally ranked athlete at the school, namely Victoria Vivians, a Scott Central athlete who ranks second nationally all-time in girls basketball.

The same month Rep. Miles’ amendment failed, the Mississippi Board of Education approved a temporary rule that will allow the Commission on School Accreditation and the board to waffle a bit before withdrawing accreditation in a district under conservatorship.

The board proposed altering language in the Public School Accountability Standards from “any school district placed in conservatorship will have its accreditation withdrawn” to “any school district placed in conservatorship may have its accreditation withdrawn.”

The rule is temporary at the moment and lasts for 120 days while the revised policy awaits public comment under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Public comment is rolling in already as critics say the rule change is designed to single out special treatment for the majority-white Scott County School District. Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, demanded to know where the concern was for student athletes when majority-black school districts fell under conservatorship in previous years.

“Amanda Elzy High School in Leflore County was a school whose students were taken into conservatorship even though they won the state basketball championship, and they were declared ineligible to play basketball again,” Hines said.  “Some of these students were on the verge of getting scholarships, and sports scholarships were the only outlet for college that many of these children had, but that didn’t stop anybody from taking that away from them.”

It turns out that Mississippi has been happily destroying the sports careers of students in majority-black districts falling under conservatorship for years now.  Of the seven districts currently under conservatorship, six have black student majorities of more than 90 percent.  In fact, the only conservatorship school district that isn’t almost 100 percent black is Tate County School District, which went under conservatorship because there wasn’t enough tax revenue to keep books on the desks and fuel  in the buses.  According to the district’s conservator, James Malone, Tate County schools had to actually borrow money to meet payroll in 2010 thanks to plummeting tax revenue in the district.

To add to calls of favoritism, Governor Phil Bryant declared this month that he would not declare a state of emergency in an effort to take over Scott County Schools, so long as Superintendent Bingham Moncrief and school board members agreed to resign their positions, effective Feb. 28.

State Superintendent Carey Wright said in a press release that the board is offering to change the rules for Scott County specifically because of its grade status.

“It is an unusual situation because the district has a B performance classification. I have directed staff to craft language that would allow the State Board of Education to have greater flexibility when similar situations occur in the future,” Wright wrote, referring to the rules change.

Hines remains outraged at the preferential treatment, however.

“We need to look at all the variables in the equation and look at upgrading our whole state system,” Hines said.  “Local factors come into play when it comes to student grades.  Lots of things play into a child’s ability to perform well.  I’m not making excuses, but some students have a good environment for academic success and some don’t, and poverty plays an unmitigated role in this and we’ll never get a hand on this situation so long as we are an impoverished state.”

Sadly, state legislators are planning to underfund public schools again this year, despite statewide education shortfalls amid raging poverty.  Lawmakers are looking to underfund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program—a formula that sets the absolute minimum funding necessary to keep schools operating efficiently.  Lawmakers have only fully funded MAEP twice since 1997.

A Center for Education Innovation report revealed that Jackson Public Schools is expected to experience MAEP underfunding of $17.2 million during the 2013-2014 school year, forcing the district to eliminate 50 teachers.

 Source: NAACPMS Staff

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.  For more information about the Mississippi NAACP or news stories, call 601-353-8452 or log on to www.naacpms.org.  Like us on Facebook by searching Mississippi NAACP and follow us on Twitter @MSNAACP.

 

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UPDATED: Chokwe Lumumba: Radical New Mayor Of Jackson, MS Dies At 66 [VIDEO]

2014/02/25 – Lumumba’s chief of staff, Safiya Omari, released the following statement:

“It is with a heavy heart, that we inform you that our beloved brother, Civil Rights Activist, Human Rights Activist, and Mayor Chokwe Lumumba has passed away. More details will be made available in the near future. For now, we ask that you pray for his children and family.”

Mayor Lumumba’s son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, spoke to members of the press from St. Dominic Hospital:

“Thanks everyone for the condolences which have been expressed and all the well-wishes. My father has passed today.

“And we thank you for all the well-wishes which we have received. At this time, what we ask for the most is prayers. For we believe in the power of the Lord. We do not have fear because the Lord has not given us the spirit of fear.

“I thank the city of Jackson. I thank you for giving my father the opportunity to serve the city. It has given him great joy. He has enjoyed working for you.

“My father dedicated his life to service and working on behalf of all people in serving the interest of Jackson. So we are honored in the legacy he has left. And we thank you for that, allowing him to serve.

“At this time, there is no cause of death; there is no official cause of death, and we do not know. So we can’t provide you one.

“We just ask that you respect the wishes of the family and give us an opportunity to grieve and put everything in order. We will provide more information as it becomes available.”

Though no official cause of death has been released, Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell said that Mayor Lumumba checked into the hospital Tuesday afternoon with chest pains:

“There were all kinds of complications going on, but ultimately it was heart failure,” Whitwell said to the Clarion Ledger. “We’re just all stricken with grief. We really had enjoyed the moment of him setting a positive tone for the city and taking up difficult issues in the city and setting a vision.”

[End]

Chokwe Lumumba, the recently elected mayor of Jackson, MS, has died at the age of 66-years-old.

Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham Stewart has confirmed his death.

RELATED:

Chokwe Lumumba: Former Lawyer For Tupac, Assata Shakur Wins Miss. Mayoral Primary Race

Congratulations! Chokwe Lumumba Elected New Mayor Of Jackson, Miss.

As previously reported by NewsOne, Lumumba served four years on the Jackson City Council before running for mayor. He was elected on June 4, 2013, winning the general election with 86 percent of the vote.

“I’m just delighted. I feel wonderfully well about the people and their vote. Our slogan has been the people must decide and the people gave us an outstanding mandate today for positive change in the city of Jackson,” Lumumba said after the results were announced. “We intend to work diligently and put all our hearts and efforts into that and we’re going to be calling upon the people to work with us. We’re not working by ourselves.”

See Mayor Lumumba’s inaugural speech below:

Lumumba spent part of the ’70s and ’80s as vice-president of the Republic of New Afrika, an organization which advocated for “an independent predominantly black government” in the southeastern United States and reparations for slavery.

“The provisional government of Republic of New Afrika was always a group that believed in human rights for human beings,” Lumumba told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “I think it has been miscast in many ways. It has never been any kind of racist group or ‘hate white’ group in any way…. It was a group which was fighting for human rights for black people in this country and at the same time supporting the human rights around the globe.”

As an attorney, Lumumba represented legendary activist, poet, actor and Hip-Hop artist Tupac Shakur in several cases, and his godmother, Assata Shakur, whom Lumumba called a “Black Panther heroine.”

RELATED: Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Stands In Solidarity With Palestine

Lumumba was also founder of  the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and his platform called for a move towards Black self-determination in the Deep South.

Lumumba referred to himself as a “Fannie Lou Hamer Democrat,” a nod to the fearless civil rights leader who organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the White supremacist Dixiecrats that ruled the Land of Jim Crow at the time.

We send our heartfelt condolences to Mayor Lumumba’s family, friends and the great city of Jackson, MS. May his revolutionary spirit live on through the community he loved so much.

 

Source: NewsOne

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The Case for Wage Hikes

2014/01/06 – (Winona, MS) Residents say it was around the late 1970s, possibly 1979, that Walmart first opened its doors on Applegate Street, in the little town of Winona, MS.  At the time, town occupants were excited about the huge shopping center touching down near the municipal border of the small community on Highway 51.  The new store was big, far bigger than most of the other family-owned stores lining the railroad at the municipality’s downtown section.

It carried things the other stores didn’t or couldn’t.  It sold tires, pharmaceuticals, Christmas decorations, household goods—even pets.  No other business in the area had sold live fish or reptiles up until then.

Things were good down on Applegate.

But nobody noticed a little further north, right after the exit on Summit Street, that the smaller retailers along the railroad were slowly closing up shop.  A local five and dime store—a relic from an earlier age that sold small toys like pea shooters and Jacobs Ladder puzzles—shut down for good, as did the hardware store on the other side of Summit Street.  One by one, most of these small stores locked their doors and went dark.

Walmart supporters might argue that these smaller businesses fell to pieces as a result of changing economic times as the nation moved steadily toward a big-box economy dominated by Walmart, K-Mart and other super-sized retailers.  But few people who aren’t Walmart enthusiasts would claim that 1979 was a good time to be a sales employee anywhere but Walmart.

WageHikes1

 

Source: http://blog.friendseat.com/mcdonalds-walmart-refuse-living-wage-to-employees/

 

It’s still not a good time to be an employee, particularly at Walmart, according to some Walmart workers living in the Jackson metro area.  The company rarely pays significantly above minimum wage.  If you do manage to qualify for a pay increase, that “raise” can often be represented by dropping three or four extra small coins into your hand once every hour.

Scheduling is also an issue, even in the stores that do not operate in 24-hour cycles.  Management, according to employees, is oblivious to the importance of a stable work week. A young mother with two kids may work day-shift one week, but then find herself scrambling for baby-sitters the following week as she is moved to evening hours to fill schedule holes.

Combine that with Walmart’s love of part-time work and hatred for a 40-hour work week, and you’ve got an excellent formula for being impoverished while actually still being employed.

Head of Household

Apologists for the wealthy generally argue that raising the national minimum wage from its current $7.25 to anything higher is a non-starter for the country. Washington Post Columnist and reliable corporate flak George Will argued in a column reprinted in the December Sun Herald that “most minimum wage earners are not poor,” nor are they “heads of households.”

“More than half are students or other young, usually part-time workers in families whose average income is $53,000 a year, which is $2,000 more than the average household income,” Will opined.

Will undermined his own argument, however, by seizing upon a percentage that actually scares the hell out of you if you look at it from a different angle.  Will said more than half of minimum wage workers are not heads of households.  Of course, that leaves almost half of them with an increased chance of actually being household heads.

Take a look at the chart below.  See that number circled down there indicating minimum wage earners 25 years of age or older?

WageHikes3

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers 2012,” http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2012tbls.htm

Multiply that figure up there by 1,000 and you’ve got 1.7 million.  That’s 1.7 million people in the U.S. in 2012 that were most likely beyond their college years and working a minimum wage job.  Considering that the average age of a first-time parent in the U.S. is age 25, you’ve got a reasonable chance of those same individuals having kids.  (We’re moving into head of household territory here.)  In fact, one of the few things keeping them from qualifying as head of household in the first place could be the fact that they have to take their kids and move in with Grandma because minimum wage doesn’t pay squat.  They’re essentially kicked out of “Household Head” status by their squalid pay.

Leland resident Alisa Moss worked at the Walmart in Winona when it first opened.  She was in her early 30s at the time.  The pay was too low for her to live independently, so she took her two daughters and moved in with her mother to help ends meet while she worked there.

Moss represents no small percentage of Mississippi.  According to Mississippi Public Broadcasting, 58,000 Mississippians earn minimum wage, and because this is a small, rural state, 58,000 is actually bigger than the entire population of Meridian, or the cities of Southaven or Biloxi.  In fact, only the cities of Jackson and Gulfport have a bigger population than the number of people in the state currently trying to make a living on the butt-end of the nation’s pay-scale.  There’s no denying that a wage increase would have a significant impact on a very significant percentage of the state.

Nevertheless, Will and other anti-labor types argue that working a minimum wage job is a conscious decision and that if you don’t like your minimum wage job you should just grab your bootstraps, get educated and get another job.  The implication here is that you get the job you deserve.

But bootstrap pulling isn’t always an option in rural Mississippi.

“There was nothing else hiring in the area at the time,” said Moss, who worked at the Winona Walmart for 22 years.  “You took that job there and dealt with the low pay because you were thankful they were hiring in the first place.”

Also, the argument that you can simply better yourself and get a higher paying job only works in a healthy economy containing a decent proportion of skilled labor jobs, rather than the rotten low-paying jobs that everybody is sinking into.

Remember that analogy of businesses closing down in Winona as Walmart opened up?  That analogy can be applied to the general economy as well.  According to a recent MIT study, more and more jobs are turning into Walmart-style jobs as low-standard service positions replace higher-paying industry jobs that once formed the basis of the nation’s middle class.

A report, co-authored by MIT economist David Autor and economist David Dorn, reveals that workers in many types of middle-rank positions, including skilled production-line workers and people in clerical or administrative jobs, have been pushed out of their jobs and forced into food-service, sales, and child-care industries, among other things.

“This polarization that we see is being driven by the movement of people out of middle-skill jobs and into services,” stated Autor in a December MIT press release.  “The growth in service employment isn’t that large overall, but when you look at people with a non-college education, it’s a very sharp increase, and it’s very concentrated in places that were initially specialized in the more middle-skill activities.”

According to MIT, the service industry grew by 30 percent between 1980 and 2005.  In fact, service occupations comprised 9.9-percent of labor hours in 1980, but today occupy 12.9-percent of labor hours, while better-paid industrial positions, like machine operators and assemblers, shrank from 9.9 percent of U.S. labor hours in 1980, to 4.6 percent in 2005.

In short, anybody pushing the bootstrap argument is not only a shameless hack, but a hack still living in the 1960s.

The service industry segment of the economy is growing so fast, in fact, that Autor suggested that government recognize the increasing number of workers in the service sector and support regulations concerning hours and working standards to accommodate it.

“It seems like people in these jobs are treated almost gratuitously badly,” Autor stated. “If you work in retail, it’s possible you won’t even know your hours until the beginning of the week. … Having uncertainty about your schedule from week to week, [when] you need to get your kids off to school, makes life that much tougher. … These jobs offer flexibility, but mostly to the employer.”

The United States, he said offers “almost no standards in this type of work.”

The Take Away

Make no mistake: These dirt-level work standards and garbage pay are whacking the middle-class like a massive economy-crushing hammer.  The middle-class serves as the actual engine for the economy because it is the class that makes most of the purchases that drive the economy.   If you stunt middle-class pay with stagnant wages, you’ll get fewer purchases being made because there’s less money to go around.  Fewer purchases mean lower sales tax revenue, which means cuts to government programs that educate and maintain the middle-class—which leads to more middle-class people getting corralled into Walmart-style jobs.

This is an economically depressing pattern that feeds itself, and most of America is just now figuring this out.  According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, two in three Americans believe the wage base should be lifted.  Eighty-five percent of Democrats support raising the national minimum wage to address income inequality.  Even Republicans are mostly onboard with this idea, with the poll finding a 50-45 split among Republicans on this issue.

A wage hike, it turns out, is even popular in labor-hating Mississippi.  A November Public Policy Polling glance found that Mississippi voters support a $10 minimum wage by a 54/37 margin, with Democrats favoring the idea 89-to-7-percent and independents favoring it by a 50-to-39-percent majority.

Opinion, apparently, favors a minimum wage hike, even up to the Washington-level, with President Barack Obama calling upon House Republicans to join him in passing a national minimum wage increase of about $10 per hour.  The President made clear his argument favoring the hike last month.

“We know that there are airport workers, and fast-food workers, and nurse assistants, and retail salespeople who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty,” President Obama said during a Dec. 4 speech in Washington. “And that’s why it’s well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms right now is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office.”

Mississippi, help the President by making your support known to Congress.  Contact your congressional state leaders below.  It’s time to take the fight to the next step.

Sen. Thad Cochran:
Website: www.cochran.senate.gov
Phone: (202) 224-5054 

Sen. Roger Wicker:
Website: www.wicker.senate.gov
Phone: (202) 224-6253

Rep. Alan Nunnelee District 1
Website: www.nunnelee.house.gov
Phone: (202) 225-4306

Rep. Gregg Harper District 3
Website: www.harper.house.gov
Phone: (202) 225-5031

Rep. Steven Palazzo District 4
Website: www.palazzo.house.gov
Phone: (202) 225-5772

 

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.  For more information about the Mississippi NAACP or news stories, call 601-353-8452 or log on to www.naacpms.org.  Friend us on Facebook by searching Mississippi NAACP and follow us on Twitter @MSNAACP.

 

Source: NAACPMS Staff

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Forum on Gun Violence Notes Economic, Education Connection

2014/01/03 – Participants at a December public discussion on gun violence in the community could not keep from bouncing the conversation into the realm of economics.

Tougaloo College hosted the event, joined by college students and President Beverly Wade Hogan, Nsombi Lambright from the Jackson City NAACP branch, Southern Poverty Law Center Senior Advocate Jed Oppenheim, community activist Jason Thompson, Tougaloo Associate Professor S. Nicole Cathey, and professional actress Aunjanue Ellis, among others.

Students participating in the event intrinsically seemed to understand that the African-American community was comparatively more interested in restricting gun availability than majority-white communities.  One student opined that this was because black communities routinely caught the brunt of gun violence, whether from inside the black community or outside in white neighborhoods.  Panelists and students were still stinging from the recent shooting death of an African-American Michigan woman who had been begging for assistance in a suburban Detroit neighborhood after a car accident.  (Michigan prosecutors charged Theodore Paul Wafer for second degree murder for shooting the 19-year-old unarmed woman in the face last month.)

Ellis

 Actress Aunjanue Ellis, of ” The Help”, used some star power to draw a crowd at the Dec. 3rd Tougaloo forum on gun violence.

 
“Our people are being killed every day,” said Ro’chelle Williams.  “There are young people being shot and killed and their bodies being thrown out in the middle of the street.”

Lambright distributed Know Your Rights materials to students to help keep youth safe in potentially dangerous situations, but students said they felt that a by-product of Mississippi’s Stand Your Ground Law actually dictates to young African American men how to behave around whites so that they don’t become victims.

The forum, advertised as an assembly “on Mississippi’s Open Carry Law,” actually wound up debunking some of the myths surrounding the new law.  Oppenheim explained that the new law, passed during the last legislative session, only clarified an earlier law the state already had put on the books—a law allowing state residents to carry firearms, without a permit, in areas not prohibited by property-owners.

Gov. Phil Bryant told reporters earlier this year, immediately after the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the open carry gun law in August, that the state constitution already required no permit to openly carry a gun in 1890.  If anything, the open carry gun law serves to bring renewed interest in Mississippi’s overly lax gun laws.  Mississippi clocked in at No. 2 in terms of the nation’s gun murder rate in 2010.

The group session offered a variety of opinions regarding violent crimes—some of them conflicting.  Oppenheim cited federal statistics revealing that violent crime was actually on a slight decline on a national, statewide and municipal level.  Senator John Horhn, however, claimed he had “never seen anything” like the recent increase in incidences of violence.

Oppenheim suggested Horhn might have been including non-violent crime in his assessment, such as property crime, which statistically rises during times of economic recession.

It was the economy that took center stage in the debate early on, in fact.  Horhn said this was not an illogical jump considering that the frequency of gun-related crime in minority-majority areas was in apparent lock-step with the staggering degree of economic depression plaguing those same communities.

“We need to start looking at the lack of (economic) opportunity, which is the real issue,” said Oppenheim. “If we’re not talking about that then our legislators aren’t talking about that, which they’re going to continue to do as long as we’re talking about the open carry law.”

Many panelists, such as Division of Social Science Dean Michael Williams, pointed out that state leaders needed to sufficiently invest in their children to assure that the resulting adults wouldn’t be bogged down by poverty, debt and social insecurity.

Recent studies suggest he has a point.  Upward mobility in the United States is stagnant, according to a report released earlier this year by the Equality of Opportunity Project (EOP).  In fact, a child born to the bottom fifth percent of households in Jackson has only a 4.6-percent chance of growing up and entering the top fifth percentile.  A kid in the Greenville area of the state only has a 3-percent chance of achieving the same kind of improvement.  Things are looking even worse in the Memphis area, where a child in the bottom fifth percent in terms of income has only a 2.6 chance of ever seeing the top fifth percentile category.

Climbing from poverty to the middle class is harder in some regions of the country, with upward mobility being particularly stagnant in the slave states. Of the 11 states that comprised the former Confederacy, the odds of a child jumping from the bottom fifth of the income distribution to the top fifth percentile in adulthood were only 6.6-percent, compared to 8.9 percent for the rest of the nation.

An interactive map created by EOP economists—with red areas indicating lower degrees of upward mobility—shows economic stagnation splashing across the South like the bloody streak of a bullwhip. Slavery apparently left more than one kind of mark.

Forum on Gun_Map

Source of map: http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/

Map_Caption
 
Report authors cited four factors as being strongly correlated with upward mobility rates: school quality, family structure, civic engagement, and the size and geographic dispersion of the middle class. Report contributing author Raj Chetty said in a July interview that residential segregation and an insufficient public education system were often the hallmark of the more socially stagnant areas.

“Take a place like Atlanta … it’s a very residentially segregated city, where low-income people are living in neighborhoods that are quite separated physically from higher income. And the public transportation’s not great. And so that was a common characteristic that we found of many places of low rates of upward mobility,” Chetty told NPR radio personality Tom Ashbrook.  “The quality of schools for low-income kids is likely to be higher in a place where they’re living in neighborhoods integrated with higher income families because there’s going to be more funding for the schools, smaller classrooms, and better teachers. And we have evidence from other work that that kind of thing really matters for kids’ outcomes.”

Michael Williams offered the same argument regarding insufficient education funding in Mississippi.

“Education for education’s sake is not the key.  We’re going to have to figure out, as young people, as old people, as community professionals, how to train our children to be holders of power,” Williams said.”

Source: NAACPMS Staff