His friends called him “one of the good guys.” Marco McMillian, at 34-years-old, was not the stereotypical Mississippi politician. He was black. He was openly gay. Nonetheless, he was considered a rising star in small town Clarksdale, MS, where he was running for mayor. That all ended when he suffered an automobile collision with a hit and run driver. Police are investigating it as murder. From CBS News:
The discovery of the openly gay candidate’s body near a Mississippi River levee Wednesday stunned residents of Clarksdale, a Blues mecca in the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta.
Authorities were investigating McMillian’s death as a homicide, and Will Rooker, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said a person of interest was in custody, but released few other details.
CBS affiliate WREG-TV in Memphis, Tenn., reports that the person of interest has been charged in McMillian’s death, according to sources close to the investigation speaking on condition of anonymity.
Here’s the video:
In 2004, Ebony Magazine called McMillian one of “30 up-and-coming African Americans” under age 30. Wanting to make an impact on the world, McMillian left Clarksdale for college. He graduated magna cum laude from Jackson State and went on to St. Mary’s in Minnesota, where he earned a master’s degree in philanthropy and development. After college, he returned to his roots, hoping to make a difference, only to have his life cut tragically short.
In the decades since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Mississippi has been slow to accept diversity. After the reelection of Barack Obama, students at the University of Mississippi rioted. Almost half of Mississippi’s Republicans still believe that interracial marriage should be illegal.
In early February, a Mississippi newspaper ran a front page story calling an LGBT marriage “historical.” The paper received hate mail and phone calls.
Like several other states, Mississippi passed a voter ID law, which was designed to target the elderly, minorities and poor people. However, unlike with other states, the measure had popular support. When broken down across racial lines, however, it painted a picture of a state still divided by racial animosity. From Huffington Post:
But a recent report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law reveals a clearer picture of just which voices were heard in Mississippi. According to the report, more than 75 percent of non-white voters rejected the ballot measure, while more than 82 percent of their white counterparts supported it.
The gulf between those who voted for and against Initiative 27 was as pronounced as the long, complicated history of racial and partisan politics in the Deep South — and Mississippi in particular. Perhaps the state’s minority voters fear history is repeating itself.
“Minority voters in Mississippi are used to devices and voter registration tricks that were used to try to keep them off the voting rolls. They looked at what was being proposed and decided this was not in their best interest and rejected it pretty overwhelmingly,” said Bob Kengle, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project. “It can be hard, I’ll admit, to tell the difference sometimes between racial politics and partisan politics, in Mississippi and other states in the South especially, but there’s a very clear racial dimension to this when you look at it in the historical context.”
If McMillian had won, he would not have been the first African-American mayor of Clarksdale. The office is being vacated by Henry Espy, Jr., an African-American, a Democrat and the brother of former U.S. Agriculture Secretary under Bill Clinton, Mike Espy.
|Wendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She is the Senior Editor for Addicting Info. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|