Apartheid American-Style | The Nation

Jackson, Miss.—This city’s water crisis had become a classic David and Goliath story: A predominantly Black city, led by its mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, facing off with “good ole boy” Governor Tate Reeves and his predominantly white state legislature—controlled by a Republican supermajority made possible by more than a century of violent voter suppression and racist gerrymandering.

Things came to a head last summer when more than 150,000 people went without water for weeks. Jackson was all over the news, the talk show circuit—even late-night television. Although Mayor Lumumba was winning the media, Governor Reeves had firm control of the purse strings, which he manipulated artfully to prevent the city from gaining access to any significant federal funding. That changed in the last days of the Democratic-controlled Congress, when the city secured $600 million in direct funding for infrastructure repairs. No state gatekeeping. We thought we won.

Community groups worked with the city to start planning for resident engagement. People’s Assemblies were being organized to dream our “just and equitable 21st-century water system” for which we’d fought so hard. We were walking toward the light we saw at the end of the tunnel, to paraphrase Robert Lowell, only to find an oncoming train.

The state was ferociously swift in its response, putting forward a slew of bills designed to undermine Jackson’s autonomy, economy, and ability to elect its own representatives.

Undoubtedly, the most controversial of these bills is HB 1020. If passed, the bill would essentially divide the city into two separate and unequal parts. Jackson’s whitest neighborhoods, its Capitol area, downtown, and most affluent business districts would comprise the proposed Capital Corridor Improvement District (CCID). The CCID was originally created in 2017 as a vehicle for funding landscaping and capital improvements in a small area around the state Capitol. The proposed, expanded CCID would extend the authority of the Capitol Police over much of Jackson without any accountability to its residents or elected leaders, create a separate governance structure made up of judges appointed by white public officials, take 18.75 percent of sales tax revenues that would have previously gone to the city, and strip Hinds County’s elected judges (all of whom are Black) of authority in the CCID, diverting civil and criminal cases to this new appointed bench.

The bill’s author, state Representative Trey Lamar (R-Senatobia), has said his bill’s intent is to make the capital city safer. Residents ask, safer for who? Certainly not for people like Jaylen Lewis, a 25-year-old Black father of two who was shot and killed by Capitol Police last September. An eyewitness to the shooting recalls that they had no idea that the car behind them was law enforcement—and that Lewis felt so concerned that he called a friend to let them know he was being followed just before he was shot. Lewis was the third victim of a shooting by Capitol Police in a six-week period and, according to the department, the first fatality.

Source link