EDITORIAL/Seeking justice, transforming
Neshoba County’s dark legacy
Thursday, June 24, 2004 8:09 AM
“Maybe Philadelphia is about to fashion a new legacy — for itself and for America,” wrote the nationally syndicated columnist William Raspberry in The Washington Post on Monday.
A public acknowledgement and call for justice by leaders here in the unprosecuted 1964 civil rights murders is getting attention — and for a change it’s positive news!
Every citizen of Neshoba County can contribute to the change by attending an observance on Sunday at the county coliseum publicly acknowledging the murders and memorializing the slain men.
Former Gov. William F. Winter will be the keynote speaker for the family-friendly event from 2 p.m., to 3 p.m., to be followed at 4 p.m., by a memorial service at the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in the Longdale community.
Attending the observance is the right and decent thing to do as families of the slain men will be in attendance.
Philadelphia is famous for two things, Raspberry observed, the murders of the three civil rights workers and President Reagan’s 1980 visit to the Neshoba County Fair that launched his election campaign with a ringing endorsement of “state’s rights,” which he criticized, saying Reagan legitimized racial indifference by his broad wink at it.
Raspberry learned about the coalition’s efforts, he told readers, after someone handed him an article from The Neshoba Democrat detailing the call for justice while he was visiting his native Mississippi.
Raspberry reported that two days after the call for justice by local officials here the Mississippi Attorney General announced federal prosecutors would become involved for the first time.
The column suggests that Philadelphia might be about to reshape its legacy and set an example for the nation.
If that is so, what a tremendous testimony to those elected officials, business leaders and citizens who have once and for all stood for justice.
The bad legacy we have comes from those who continue in denial, not those calling for justice.
The media are going to come every June for the anniversary. They’ve come every year for 40 years and they will always continue to come.
The choice is ours. We can tell our story or have others tell it for us.
The members of The Philadelphia Coalition chose to tell the story this year.
So when is enough enough?
That’s the question we should be asking those in denial. They give us all a bad name by expressing, albeit increasingly more sophisticated and subtle, their pathological racism, which is the lingering excrement of propagandistic indoctrination by a once segregationist society.
A call for justice
Before any serious plans were laid for the commemoration events, a resolution calling for justice was fashioned.
That resolution will be read Sunday along with an apology to the family members of the slain men.
Resolutions from the city, the county and the Community Development Partnership back the call for justice. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians wrote a letter of support endorsing the coalition.
The relationships that have been forged on The Philadelphia Coalition will be of lasting benefit to this community.
The observances on Sunday could very well be the high point in the life of this community and will indeed be an opportunity to show the world how good the people here really are, that we’ve never condoned murder and that we are decent enough to demand justice and admit we have been wrong.
When we do the right thing we won’t have to worry about our image because that will take care of itself, as Mr. Raspberry’s observation suggests.