Our view: Our collective past

February 16, 2011 11:09:00 AM



A phrase used by Donna Stark in a Local Voices piece in Monday''s Dispatch has caused a stir among our reader-bloggers. In her column titled "Old times not forgotten," Stark, a retired biology professor, enumerates some of the inequities of Mississippi''s racist past and takes Gov. Haley Barbour to task for downplaying their severity. 


The term that has raised the ire of our bloggers is "our collective past." Most seem to interpret it as "our collective blame," something altogether different. We don''t think that is what Stark meant, and if it was, we would take issue as well. Our collective past is another thing, however. 


Like it or not, we, as Mississippians, share the history of this place. There is much to be proud of and much that we wish had not happened. No one, not even Gov. Barbour, can rightly deny that horrific things were done to black people here prior to the Civil Rights movement. Those were far from the best of times, and the evil that existed then permeated all levels of society. 


Mississippi has and continues to pay a terrific price for those misdeeds. Not only has the state been stigmatized, Mississippi''s blacks as a group are lagging in desirable categories (income, education) and leading in the undesirable ones (high school drop out rates, unwed mothers). Some might argue that sad state of affairs is a legacy of racism. Others say blacks have failed to fully accept the responsibilities of equality under the law. Again, that is not what we are arguing here. 


As Mississippians we have a shared history, a collective past, if you will. We draw from the lessons of history and, as a result, continue to make this a better place for people of all races. It is work that is never finished, however, and frank, honest dialog such as Stark''s column and the response it evoked contribute to that progress. 


Read Stark''s column in Monday''s paper or at cdispatch.com/opinions.