By the time you read this, you'll probably know who the good citizens of Mississippi have elected as their next governor.
Judging from the commercials flooding my television screen in recent weeks, it will be either Democrat Jim Hood, the portly white guy with good hair who baits his own hook, loads his own gun, drives his own truck, and shoots bottles with his rifle. Or it will be Republican Tate Reeves, the slightly less-portly white guy with good hair who drives his own truck, shoots his own rifle, and says Hood is a liberal because he doesn't support Donald Trump.
In Mississippi, even "liberal" politicians have to prove their truck-drivin', gun shootin', good-hair, white guy cred, though it doesn't stop their opponents from insinuating they're in a polyamorous relationship with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
I suppose it's progress of a sort that Hood claims to be a "moderate" — which means he'll probably lose in a state full of voters who've bought into the transformation of the Republican Party from the party of "conservative family values" and "law and order" to the party of "whatever Trump does is awesome."
And I suppose it's just coincidence that a group of white supremacists were caught filming themselves in front of the Emmett Till memorial sign at Graball Landing in Tallahatchie County last week.
Emmett Till, as you should know, was a 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, in 1955. Money is home to the famous Tallahatchie Bridge, Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market, and not much else. In 1955, Carolyn Bryant, wife of the now-deceased grocer Roy Bryant, accused Till of whistling at her, grabbing her by the waist, and "uttering obscenities." As retribution for this alleged offense, which no one else witnessed, Roy and his half-brother, J.W. Millam, went to Emmett Till's uncle's house and kidnapped him. They then tied him up, pistol-whipped him, shot him, tied his body to a heavy cotton-gin fan, and threw him into the Tallahatchie River.
Not surprisingly, given the long-established rituals of the Jim Crow era, Till's murderers were quickly acquitted by an all-white jury. It was a travesty of "justice," though common at the time. It was made even more heinous by the admission of Carolyn Bryant in 2008 that she'd made it all up.
That same year, 2008, a marker was erected near the Tallahatchie River where Emmett Till's body was recovered. The sign was soon vandalized and thrown into the water. Through the years, two more historical markers were erected. Both suffered similar fates; they were shot through with bullets, burned, and destroyed in one manner or another.
Last summer, several male Ole Miss students posted an image on social media of themselves posed with rifles near the bullet-riddled sign. Hotty Toddy, y'all.
It's horrific to think about: An innocent 14-year-old boy was lynched — brutally murdered — 64 years ago, but a small, simple memorial to his brief life on this earth is somehow so offensive to some people that it cannot not be allowed to exist. In October, a new 500-pound, bulletproof marker, donated by a Brooklyn signmaker, was put in place at Graball Landing, along with security cameras and an alarm system.
Which brings us to last week, when a group of portly white men carrying the neo-Confederate flags of the League of the South gathered in front of the new sign and began making racist statements as they filmed themselves. They weren't aware that they were also being filmed by the newly installed security camera. When the screeching alarm sounded, they scattered like cockroaches running from the light, back into their trucks — mission unaccomplished.
I don't know if these assholes vote, but if they do, I'm pretty sure it won't be for a "moderate."
It's possible Mississippi will surprise the world in Tuesday's election and move away from the lockstep Trumpism that has infected so much of the country. It doesn't hurt to hope, though the odds seem long. But the recurring events at Graball Landing make it clear we have a long way to go before the indelible stain of racism can be put behind us.