You’re Not Supposed to Care About Mississippi

We’ve been told that the worst that happens to the state is just part of America’s natural order. It’s time that changes.

David Dennis, Jr.
LEVEL
Published in
5 min readMar 9, 2021

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Thomas Robertson, Flickr

I used to be deathly afraid of tornadoes when I was a kid. And in Mississippi, tornadoes were abundant. I’d spend hours of my summer days glued to the Weather Channel any time gray clouds would form. If a storm was on the horizon, I’d watch the meteorologists explain the paths of the storm. To me, it seemed like they would say things along the lines of “this storm is going to cause major damage to New Orleans and pass on through to Birmingham.” If they ever mentioned my home, I knew that meant there was total devastation coming.

I’ve been thinking about those anxious summer days more and more as I’ve watched the news about the catastrophe in Mississippi. A few weeks ago, a winter storm tore through the South. I’m sure you’ve heard of it concerning what it did to Texas: An unknown number of people froze to death in their homes as the state experienced a massive power grid and leadership failure. Ted Cruz ditching the state was the top news story for days.

That same storm, however, ravaged Mississippi and incapacitated the state’s already-outdated drainage system. Thousands of people in the mostly Black capitol of Jackson have gone without water for weeks. The story went under-reported nationally until grassroots organizations were finally able to get the nation’s attention. The same thing happened in ’05 when Hurricane Katrina tore the Mississippi Gulf Coast to shreds. We had family and friends go missing. Some were never found.

It has always felt like it’s harder to get the rest of the country to pay attention to Mississippi—and it’s the result of the entirety of American history.

We don’t care about Mississippi because we’re not supposed to. America sees everything bad that happens to the state as the natural order of things because Mississippi and the people there are supposed to suffer. The state and its history of cruelty to Black folks stand as a beacon of cognitive dissonance for the rest of the country that needs to look at what it believes is the worst of us to make itself feel better about its own racism. At least we’re not Mississippi is…

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David Dennis, Jr.
LEVEL

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us