Jackson, MS: Still Every Bit as Racist as Depicted in “The Help”?

Posted on August 3, 2012


Now, before you get all offended, no, I am not saying that everyone in the south is racist, or that any other place is a beacon of righteousness and light.  However, I am saying there is a very definite, and very influential, racist element still alive and kicking, and that it is pretty shameful that it is still so prevalent in 2012.  Are you a racist?  Hell, I dunno – have we met?  But you know – if you think that black people shouldn’t be in your church, that black people shouldn’t have certain jobs, that black people shouldn’t live near you, that black people have a place and should stay in it and follow the rules, and if they would just do that, then there wouldn’t be any trouble – yep, you’re racist.

Last summer, I went to see “The Help.”  Afterward, in discussing it with some friends, one of them said:  “I don’t think it’s all that realistic.  I don’t think people were ever really that prejudiced.”  I about fell over.  This friend was my age; how could she have missed all those racial struggles and prejudices of our youth?  Okay, “The Help” is a fictional movie, not a documentary.  But I actually remember people my mother’s age – the adults of my childhood – who believed that you could get diseases from black people, who were afraid of desegregated bathroom facilities, and who just generally treated non-whites like second-rate people.  And this wasn’t even in the deep south!

Also last summer, you may recall, there was the horrific story of a pack of white teenage goons who decided they were going to “go fuck with some niggers” in – where else – Jackson, Mississippi, and ended up killing James Craig Anderson for no reason other than the color of his skin and his ill luck at having encountered them.  After the initial arrests, there were a lot of excuses and denials from family and friends of the perpetrators:  the instigator was a product of his upbringing, a victim of a culture that does not stop bullying, societal shifts make some people feel like they are under attack, boo-hoo, we’re not racists, this hurts us, and Mr. Anderson’s death was not a crime (the court disagreed).  The only silver lining is that the wheels of justice are slowly continuing to turn, encompassing more of the teens who were involved in that attack.

Well, the little town of Jackson and environs has not changed its ways.  Today’s story is, thank God, nowhere near as horrific as Mr. Anderson’s story, but it’s still a story of racial hatred, prejudice, and cowardice in the face of racist bullies.  It’s also a reminder of why I can never in good conscience call myself a “Christian,” if this is what Christian churches are all about.

In Crystal Springs, Mississippi, just a smidge south of Jackson, there is a predominantly white church, the First  Baptist Church.  And in that church there is a pastor, Dr. Stan Weatherford.  And Dr. Stan Weatherford was to perform a wedding – the wedding of a black couple, Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson.  But apparently, Whitey got to him first, and made clear in no uncertain terms that he would be “voted out” as pastor if he dared to wed a black couple in that church.  So Dr. Weatherford did the cowardly thing to keep the peace, and shuffled the disappointed couple off to another church (presumably a more Christian one?), where he performed the wedding.   The pastor claimed to have been taken by surprise by a “small minority” who opposed the wedding. “This had never been done before here, so it was setting a new precedent, and there are those who reacted to that because of that. I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church, and I didn’t want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te’ Andrea,” he told reporter David Kenney.  And yet, he also is supposedly questioning the mindset of his parishioners, and says he was prepared to “go ahead” with the wedding.

Well, there are some inconsistencies here.  If it was only a “minority” opposing the wedding, why fear being voted out?  Perhaps because the minority was probably speaking for the majority in that congregation?  And now Dr. Weatherford is questioning this ignorant mindset?  Why not take the opportunity – when he was confronted with the threats and imprecations to cancel the wedding, or else – to educate and stand up to this hatefulness, rather than backing down in the face of it?  I guess some of God’s children (the hateful, ignorant ones) are more worthy of church attendance than others (the black ones, apparently).  Or maybe they need that church attendance more, not that it’s doing them a whole lot of good.

Now, maybe I’m harsh, calling Dr. Weatherford a coward, because perhaps there is also some wisdom in his actions.  Given that the James Craig Anderson murder was only a year ago, and Whitey seems pretty unrepentant about that, I can imagine some of the scenarios that went through Dr. Weatherford’s mind.  Would the wedding be picketed, would there be violence, might someone later attack and harm the newlyweds for sullying their church?  I don’t put any of this past some of the good folks of Mississippi.  It’s just shameful that in 2012, anyone should have to take racial violence into serious consideration while planning a church wedding.

Tagged: ,