Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Race Card

My husband and I watched The Express over the weekend. It was an okay movie, even though it was a little distant, a little too pat and churned out. I hadn't wanted to see it because it seemed like one of those "racism" movies that have no purpose other than to make me feel angry and depressed. But, like I said, it was an okay movie.

The point of this pointless review is a line from the coach at the end of the movie. He said something about making touchdowns whether in Boston or Mississippi. What was odd to me about his line was that he named a yankee city and a southern state. Yeah, Mississippi is so homogeneously racist that you don't have to name any individual towns or cities because they are all equally bad. Moreover, people in northern states neither are racist nor experience racism.

It seems that Mississippi is the butt-monkey for racism. Need a quick joke about how backwards the south can be - mention Mississippi. Want to show the extreme evil of all things evil concerning prejudice - show Mississippi. Have a movie script about the hardships slaves/civil rights activists/any black people were put through because of racism - set it in Mississippi. Where did all the abusive slave owners move after the War of Northern Aggression was over? Why, Mississippi, of course.

When did this happen? Why is this what Mississippi is known for? Mississippi is not the only state in the South. It is not the only state that has dealt with having slaves, segregation, and prejudice in its past and/or present. Why is Mississippi singled out?

Anyway, I made it my mission to find movies set in Mississippi that did not involve racism. Sigh. It was not an easy task. But, I found eight. I think. You see, I have only seen one of these movies (The Ladykillers). The rest might have slipped in some sort of racism in passing, but, if it wasn't included in the plot details, I figure it counts (if there are more or if I'm wrong, just let me know).

Miss Firecracker Yazoo City, MS
Ode to Billie Joe MS
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof MS
The Long, Hot Summer Frenchman's Bend, MS
The Ladykillers Saucier, MS
Cookie's Fortune Holly Springs, MS
My Dog Skip Yazoo City, MS

I went to this trouble to convince myself that racism wasn't the first thing a person thinks about when he thinks of Mississippi. While I have experienced many incidents with racist people, I don't see Mississippi as particularly extreme (when looking at the South as a whole). Yet, when I tell someone where I am from, they give me the "sucks for you" look.

I hope I'm not the only one out there trying to change the perceptions of Mississippi.

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