Mississippi official: Black people 'dependent' since slavery
JACKSON, miss. (AP) - After a white-elected official in Mississippi rejected a proposal to relocate a Confederate monument, he said this week that African Americans had become "dependent" during slavery and therefore had a harder time "assimilating" American Life than other abused groups. Critics said his comments were outrageous and asked him to resign.
Confederate symbols are discussed in many states under widespread protests in the United States against racism and police violence. Monuments that have been outside of courthouses and other public properties for more than a century have been removed or relocated to other southern states in the past few days, and regulators in several counties in Mississippi are discussing the matter.
In northeastern Mississippi, Lowndes County, regulators racially voted against the relocation of a Confederate monument that had been before the Columbus District Court since 1912. The monument shows a Confederate soldier and says that the south fought for a "noble cause". Three white regulators voted against and two black regulators voted in favor.
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At one point during the meeting, a white manager, Harry Sanders, said moving the monument would not solve anything and would be an attempt to erase the story.
"We need to be reminded of an atrocity that happened," he said. "If we are not reminded of it, we will tend to forget it and (the story) will repeat itself."
After the meeting, Sanders, a Republican, was quoted by the Commercial Dispatch as saying that other groups of people who had also been abused in the past - he quoted Irish, Italian, Polish, and Japanese immigrants - successfully "assimilated" thereafter could .
"The only ones who have problems: Guess who? The African Americans, ”said Sanders. "You know why? In my opinion, they were slaves. And so they didn't have to go out and make money, they didn't have to do anything. Whoever owned them took care of them, fed them, they became addicted, and this addiction is still there. The Democrats here, who rely on the black vote to be elected, make them dependent on them. ”
Columbus' Democratic MP Kabir Karriem, who is African American, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Sanders should resign. Karriem called Sanders' statements "horrific".
"It is truly unforgivable how unusual they were to know that he has black people in his area," said Karriem. “His revisionist history is not correct at all. Our ancestors didn't want to be slaves. "
Sanders did not immediately respond to a message the AP had left on his cell phone voicemail on Tuesday.
A Mississippi law from 2004 states that no war memorial "can be relocated, removed, disturbed, changed, renamed or newly inaugurated". However, the law also says: "The board of directors can move the monument to a more suitable location if it is determined that the location is more suitable for the exhibition of the monument."
Lowndes County is 53% white and 45% black. Several black and white residents asked regulators on Monday to move the Confederate Monument. One of the two black superiors, Democrat Leroy Brooks, said people weren't trying to change history but wanted to "re-channel some offensive things."
"We don't say we should tear it down," Brooks said. "We say we should move it. So when people come to the courthouse and look at it from a certain angle, they don't see what looks like a Ku Klux Klan. ”
In Mississippi's second largest city, Gulfport, officials voted on Tuesday to no longer raise the state flag on the city's grounds because it contains the confederate battle emblem that critics call racist. The workers quickly removed the banner from the town hall.
Mississippi is the only state with a flag that contains the emblem: a red field with a blue X with 13 white stars. White supremacists embedded it in the upper left corner of the flag in 1894.
Several other cities and counties in Mississippi and all eight of the state's public universities have stopped flying the state flag in recent years. The Confederate symbol does not represent a state with 38% black population. People who voted in a nationwide election in 2001 chose to keep the symbol on the flag, but recent protests have fueled the debate over a change in design.
Republican governor Tate Reeves said if the flag should be changed it should do so in a nationwide referendum.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.
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