- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

June 15

The Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on Rachel Dolezal:

Decades ago, when there were obvious, intentionally constructed barriers to prevent minorities from improving their lives, there was the occasional story of light-skinned blacks who passed themselves off as white in order to get ahead.

Last week, that narrative got flipped when it was reported that a college professor who had until this morning led the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, has been describing herself for years as black but, in fact, is white.

In an age when men claim to be women and vice versa, this may not be such a big deal. If somebody asserts a different ancestry than his or her own, there’s no way to prevent it. It does, however, raise questions about that person’s honesty, and that’s the most notable element of the Spokane case.

The Montana parents of Rachel Dolezal said she has falsely portrayed herself as black for years. They produced a birth certificate and a childhood picture of a blonde, blue-eyed girl who they say is their daughter. Separately, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson unearthed a photo from Dolezal’s time as a student about 15 years ago at Belhaven University: fair-skinned with long blonde hair. Much different than the light-brown-skinned professor who now sports a shock of curly dark hair.

Assuming that what her parents say is correct, and it certainly appears to be so from the photographic evidence, the motive for Dolezal’s transformation remains unexplained. She cut off an interviewer last week when he asked if she was black, and told the Spokane newspaper “there’s a lot of complexities” to the question of her background.

A University of Pennsylvania sociology professor speculated that Dolezal may have seen her original skin color as a barrier to the social-justice advocacy work she wanted to do.

Maybe so. But it is clear that unmasking Dolezal will do far more harm to her work than anything she was doing in disguise.

The most obvious proof of this is that in recent years, she has reported at least eight incidents of racial threats or harassment while living in Idaho and Washington state. The most recent one occurred a few months ago, when she told authorities she received hate mail at her office.

The red flag in the case is that the mail did not have a date stamp or bar code that would show the Postal Service processed it. Investigators already were suspicious of her story.

Last week’s revelations about Dolezal’s background give cause to wonder if she faked the hate mail to get publicity - or to invent a problem that did not exist in order to further her “social justice” goals.

And if that’s in question, then the prior harassment Dolezal reported must be questioned, too.

When she was at Belhaven, Dolezal was active in the Voices of Calvary Ministries, a civil rights group that focuses on assisting the poor.

If she learned anything from that experience, it should have been that people of any background can provide real help to those who need it. You don’t have to pretend you are someone you are not.




June 11

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on the state’s abysmal economic report:

It doesn’t add up.

To hear Gov. Phil Bryant tell it, the state is doing quite well, thank you. “Mississippi is being recognized as a leader in many economic rankings,” he boasts on his website. It’s a message we’ve heard many times.

Then came the news that the state was one of two states in recession. The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis found the state’s economy shrank by 1.2 percent in 2014, the second year in a row it declined. Only Alaska is in the same leaky economic boat.

“By the BEA’s own admission, these figures are based on incomplete data and calculations,” Bryant spokeswoman Nicole Webb wrote in an email Wednesday to the Associated Press. “It is very likely the figures will be revised in the future. Furthermore, Mississippi’s GDP is still larger than it was in 2009 and is still in excess of $100 billion. Unemployment is 6.6% — lower than it has been in years. Governor Bryant has a laser focus on economic development, and Mississippi has added more than 32,000 jobs since he took office.”

That’s a familiar refrain from the Governor’s Office, too. When the state had the worst in the nation unemployment rate last year, Bryant wondered if those numbers might be off. Of course now that the unemployment rate is dropping, the numbers suit him just fine.

The state’s economist was a little more candid.

“I was shocked,” Darrin Webb told the AP.

Frankly, we were too. But then, the economy on the Coast is unique. It is bustling.

We have a solid shipbuilding industry and an expanding tourism industry. To his credit, Bryant knows a good thing when he sees it and he hasn’t been afraid to invest state money in both those areas.

Still, there are parts of the state, some right by Jackson, where unemployment is chronically high. Across the nation, Mississippi is known as much for its poverty as it is for economic development.

A debate rages in the state about how much to invest in education and how to invest it. Education doesn’t register on Bryant’s list of economic rankings. It has to be on there. Until we have a highly trained and well-educated workforce to fill jobs, businesses and industries will continue to pass the state by.




June 14

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on placing health coverage ahead of politics:

No one knows how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of health insurance subsidy payments for citizens using a federal health insurance exchange rather than a state-enacted exchange, but more than 75,000 Mississippians stand to lose the subsidy if the court rules against subsidies under a federal exchange plan.

A ruling is expected to be handed down by the end of June, possibly within days.

Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves say Congress will have to remedy the situation if the ruling goes against subsidies through a federal exchange, which is politically arguable.

It is also arguable that if the governor had allowed Republican statewide-elected Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney’s fully designed state exchange plan to move forward through federal approval, Mississippians would not face a subsidy issue as in the lawsuit before the high court.

Bryant placed his political opposition to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) ahead of Mississippians’ health care when he refused to sign off on the exchange.

It is notable that former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour was a proponent of the state developing a health insurance exchange even before ACA. Bryant should have followed Barbour’s thinking.

The Bryant decision was short-sighted and narrow-minded. The ACA was moving forward nationwide, even in the face of political opposition by many Republicans. Those opponents unwisely chose to fight the political side of the issue with individuals’ access to private insurance with the aid of subsidies.

Capitol Bureau reporter Bobby Harrison wrote for Friday’s edition, “According to the national nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, 75,613 Mississippians would lose federal subsidies, which average $351 per month, if the Supreme Court rules against the use of the federal exchanges. The ruling would result in an average increase in health insurance premiums to these Mississippians of 650 percent, according to Kaiser.”

Nicole Webb, the communications director for Bryant, said, the governor “continues to oppose Obamacare and any entrenchment of it in Mississippi . the governor expects Congress to address the subsidy issue.”

In an emailed response, fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves expressed similar thoughts.

Chaney has said he has a contingency plan, but won’t offer it unless the legislative leadership and the governor sign off on it.

Chaney’s caution comes from having been burned once after having acted in conscience to make health insurance available through a state exchange, only to have that plan scuttled by Bryant and others.

“I will not move forward unless there is a consensus among the state elected leadership,” Chaney said via email.

Consensus to offer Chaney’s contingency is more sensible than saying Congress must act to resolve the issue.



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