I had nothing to lose. It was my last night in Jackson, and I was still confused. I had developed a decent rapport with the server at the restaurant, and so I took a risk and asked if she would answer a question for me. “Sure, if I can.”
“OK,” I ventured. “I find Mississippi somewhat bewildering.” Swallowing hard, I continued. “This state has the highest percentage of Black people in the country, and yet . . . ” I faltered.
“And yet we’re the reddest of the red states?” she suggested.
“Well, maybe. It’s just that there have been really brutal aspects of history regarding race here, yet there have also been astonishingly bold stands on civil rights and human rights.”
“I don’t get it, either,” she replied. “I’m bewildered, too. With all the Black civil rights heroes that have come from Mississippi, I don’t understand why there hasn’t been more change.” She paused, looked around, leaned a little closer, and spoke very quietly, “For instance, in this hotel, virtually all of the service employees are Black, but every person in management is white. I have no idea why it’s still that way.”
An order was up and she had to go and take care of another table. She didn’t get back to my table before I left.
I do believe there is change bubbling up in Mississippi and it’s close to surfacing. But for now, the server and I will have to continue to seek more understanding and, hopefully, live in ways that may bring a little bit of change.