Tuesday, 31 December 2002

LottWatch Day, uh, who's counting anymore?

When you've just been fired from your job as Mr. GOP, what do you do? Well, if you're Trent Lott, you come to a rally in your hometown with 3,000 of your closest, mostly white friends (I'm experiencing ugly déjà vu of Bill Clinton's Rose Garden “I've Been Impeached” Party in 1998), where seldom is heard a discouraging word. For example, try these paragraphs on for size, courtesy of Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry Mitchell:

Through this ordeal, Lott said, he's found opportunity. "There are some things I can do out there now that maybe I couldn't do before," he said.

While he failed to specify what he meant, he did talk about making improvements in education, national defense and homeland security.

Hasn't that been the problem all along — failing to specify what he meant?

Mitchell seems to go out of his way to talk to all “several dozen” blacks in attendence, generating quotes from at least two, possibly three of them (unfortunately for this dissection of the event, the AP Stylebook now frowns on referring to quoted parties by race, so you have to read between the lines).

"They should not vote for anybody to have a special day," whether King, Lincoln or Washington, [Huey Pierce, of Bogalusa, La.,] said. "We should have a Presidents Day or a Heroes Day, just like we have a Veterans Day. It's not any one individual."

I fully agree; henceforth, nearby Jefferson Davis County will be renamed Traitors County, to not honor any one individual.

Lynn Rouse, former chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party, blamed Lott's fall on a national media frenzy.

If claims of Lott supporting segregation were true, he said, wouldn't there be evidence of such segregation in Jackson County?

Why, Lynn, I'm glad you asked. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Gini Index of African-American residential segregation for the Biloxi-Gulfport-Pascagoula MSA was 0.659 (on a scale where 1=segregated and 0=desegregated). While certainly lower than that of Chicago (0.922) or Detroit (0.940), or even Jackson (0.769), it is hardly the least segregated community in the country, being eclipsed by such paragons of equality as Topeka (0.608, site of Brown v. Board of Education), Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (0.600), and Charleston, S.C. (0.577), among others. Other indices suggest that the Gulf Coast region is as segregated as communities of similar size in the South; there is clear and ample evidence that Jackson County is, in fact, still segregated by any plausible definition of the term. Not to mention the rally itself, which seems to have been, charitably, around 95–98 percent white.

Of course, Lynn is probably referring to de jure segregation; however, since that pesky Brown v. Board of Education decision found that to be inconsistent with the 14th Amendment, you won't find de jure segregation anywhere in the United States (with the usual caveats for all the state-sponsored resegregation that seems to be in vogue these days, largely in secondary and tertiary education).

Meanwhile, adjacent Harrison County still has a problem with another legacy of the Confederacy, in which a sizable minority (42%) of locals voted to remove a public display of the Confederate Battle Flag.

It's safe to say, though, that the Gulf Coast's favorite son seems to reflect the views of his neighbors — or at least, his white ones.