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Riot At Ole Miss; A Symptom of Racial Issues In Mississippi

by JR, Your Black World

Racial tensions have increased at Ole Miss in the last week after 400 students became involved in a protest against President Obama’s re-election. Racial slurs and other pre-Civil Rights style attitudes were brought to light by the angry mob. It was even alleged (but denied by the Dean of Old Miss) that people were throwing rocks at the protest. The social media purported protest leaves a lot of people feeling uneasy as it brought spoken racism back to the Ole Miss campus and back into the national spotlight.

The Riot at Ole Miss took place barely over a month after the 50th Anniversary of James Meredith’s first day of school, integrating the college. Holbrook Mohr, a writer, wrote, “Rumors about the situation were fueled on Twitter after the university’s student journalists posted a video referring to the gathering as “riots.” … One picture that spread rapidly on social media shows people burning an Obama campaign sign, but the university hasn’t confirmed that the picture was taken on campus. The chancellor said some photos shared on social media showed things that were not seen by police on campus, but the reports of uncivil language and racial slurs appeared to be accurate.”

Other people, like journalism instructor Ellen Meacham, think that the press is overreacting to the entire situation. According to Meacham, the angry gathering of 400 students on Ole Miss’ campus was not a riot. A riot would have looked more like the uprising at Ole Miss after James Meredith became the first black person to enroll at the college. Meredith’s first day of school included 3,000 soliders, over 500 law enforcement officers and an angry mob that killed two white men and resulted in over 200 injuries.

Maybe Meacham does have a point. No one was hurt and no one needed to send a militia to break up a violent civil dispute. But what Meacham may be choosing to overlook is that people communicate differently now than they did 50 years ago. We now live in a time where it is not socially acceptable to start a racial war on a college campus. We also live in a time where expressing your disdain for another race will get you fired, or knock you down the social ladder.

More importantly, we live in a time where social media lends an eager hand to repress or ignite disputes of angered citizens who feel the need to express themselves. A few changed statuses and some Twit pics lead to a flash mob of angry students shouting racial slurs at a college that already has its own racial issues, in a state that is not historically tolerant.

Although they could not practice it legally, Mississippi did not ratify the 13th amendment prohibiting slavery until 1995, a good 130 years after the government had already outlawed it for everyone. Black unemployment in Mississippi is at 18.9% which is 8.5% higher than the rest of the state and is 12% higher than national unemployment.

Some people may not want to admit that there is a problem in Mississippi, but it is evident in statistics that depict the African-American experience in the state. It was made even more clear on Ole Miss’ campus; a college campus where some of America’s best and brightest are being shaped to become future leaders of this country.

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