Friday, July 21, 2023

Sins of the Father

In the larger world, we talk about the baby boom generation, generation x, and millennials.  In Mississippi, there's only one generational marker that matters:  Those of us who were in school when the order for segregation came and those who weren't.  That moment in history, that turning point of history, changed the future of Jackson and Mississippi and might have destroyed it.   

If you look at Jackson now and many other parts of Mississippi, you'll see a school system that's just about as segregated now as it was in 1970.  There are some white kids in black schools and some black kids in white schools, but for the most part, all of our schools are either almost entirely white or almost entirely black, with a fairly predictable outcome of underfunded black schools and overfunded white schools.  

White schools have buildings named for wealthy white benefactors (who usually paid for them) while black schools have buildings named for people who died for the cause, that were either paid for with what federal dollars trickled down to us, a bond issue Jackson can't afford, or they just renamed an older building that had been named for a white person, sometimes a Confederate hero.  

I'd like to report that successful middle-class and upper-middle-class black families stepped in and replaced the lost financial support of white people with their own financial support, but that's not happening.  Middle-class and upper-middle-class black families are, by and large, sending their kids to the same private schools the white parents send their kids to, but there are far fewer of them, so they end up being a small minority in their school that sits inside a city where people who look like them are actually the majority.

It's awfully easy to say, "Boyd, you were six years old.  You don't bear any responsibility in this." and there have certainly been times when I believed that.  I don't say that anymore.  These days, I tend to say, "If you're alive, and you live here or did your best to escape from here, then you bear some responsibility."  Leaving Jackson, leaving the Delta, even leaving Mississippi doesn't make you not responsible anymore; it just makes it easier to live like you weren't.  

Part of dealing with the sins of the Father is that you're left with some portion of what they left behind, just like they were left with the sins their Father left behind.   Breaking the cycle isn't easy, but until you do something different, you won't get nothing different.  Any generation can break the cycle.  They just have to choose it.

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