MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Media distortion is rampant these days on the question of what it takes to vote.
Here’s WORLD commentator Kim Henderson.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: Georgia’s voting laws saga reminded me of an Associated Press article that made the rounds last fall. The title was, “In Mississippi, Black voters face many hurdles. ” Its words made their way into the minds of readers of The Washington Post, the Miami Herald, the Waco Tribune-Herald, The Seattle Times, and more than a few paper points in between. Yes, the headline even reached the good folks pouring over the Petroskey News-Review. (That’s in Michigan.)
Wondering just what they read? Here’s the lowdown in lifted lines. In Mississippi, the struggle isn’t over. People have to fight for the vote. We’re drifting into the past. We’re even frozen in the past. And the road to voting in our state? Well, it’s like the one in Neshoba County where three voting rights activists were murdered in 1964—quote—“just as crooked now as it was then.”
Let me clarify up front that I’m for owning Mississippi’s history. But owning something is different from stagnating in it. Jackson radio talk show host Kim Wade, who is black, once described it to me like this: “There seems to be a concerted effort by some type of invisible hand to constantly revisit the physical harm and degradation of the Jim Crow era.”
The AP article, produced with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, seemed to have that invisible hand pushing all the usual Mississippi buttons. Descriptions of civil rights era atrocities. Check. A quote from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Check. A desolate photo from the Delta and another from a bar touting a Confederate flag. Check, check. Then, for good measure, the piece included an outhouse mention and a remark made by segregationist Theodore Bilbo during an election campaign 74 years ago. Check.
Noticeably absent from the piece was any response from Mississippi election officials. According to Kendra James, a communications assistant in the Secretary of State’s office, they have no record of the author contacting them for comments.
I decided to investigate one of the article’s main beefs, the “burden” of getting a voter ID card. Two calls and about five minutes later, I was set up to get one for free using free transportation that would arrive at my front door within 24 hours. Perhaps it’s time we educate ourselves about what “burdens” and “government-created barriers” really look like.
Reporters who paint the South in sepia-toned images from 60 years ago, well, that’s easy work. You’re missing out on real-time crises you could use your grants to investigate. Fatherlessness is wrecking our black-white-and-all-colors-in-between culture. The welfare system disincentivizes work and keeps people living below that poverty line you highlighted. And those two things together factor into the high disenfranchisement percentage you ridicule.
Then you slipped in that point about a black politician being able to rise only so far in Mississippi. Well, for the record, my state representative is black, my state senator is black, and my congressman is black. But I guess that kind of reporting might require more than a quick drive through and a camera with one lens.
I’m Kim Henderson.