Saturday, June 20, 2009


You really should go here and listen to NPR's story about Obbie Riley, a county supervisor in Neshoba County, Mississippi. This weekend, he and some volunteers will personally do the physical labor required to install a memorial to the slain civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. You see, there seems to be no other way to get the monument installed -- but it isn't because of racism, oh, heavens no. Why, it's simply because of a jurisdictional dispute:

The state Department of Archives and History has authorized a historical marker on Mississippi 19 south at the intersection of Road 515 near where three civil rights workers were murdered here in 1964, but county supervisors said Monday they would not be responsible for erecting the sign.

... William Thompson, a special projects officer with Archives and History, said the request for the historical marker was made by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation based at the University of Mississippi.

Since the historic marker would be on right-of-way of the state Department of Transportation, the consensus of supervisors on Monday was that MDOT [Mississippi Department of Transportation] officials should erect it.

Riley recommended that the county do the work, telling supervisors that he had spoken with MDOT officials who said they did not install such markers unless directed by the state Legislature.

Riley did not get any support from the other four supervisors.

Did I mention the fact that, according to the NPR story, all the other supervisors are white?

After the meeting, Riley said he would solicit other volunteers to help him put it up.

"We just need to dig a hole with a post hole digger and add some concrete," he said. "The pole is already equipped with all the hardware."

In the NPR story, Riley says he's a country boy who's dug his share of post holes, and he's ready to do this kind of work -- even though local temperatures are in the mid-90s, with a triple-digit heat index.

That fact comes out as a result of his interviewer, as does the fact that all of Riley's fellow supervisors are Caucasian. He's the soul of politeness -- he says his colleagues are all good people and won't speak ill of them. It's heartbreaking and infuriating. I wish him well.

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