Yep, Mississippi is ranked number one. The state desperately wanted to be number one at something. Yet, I doubt this is what they had in mind. We also rank way up the charts for infant mortality. The other day, I was reading the blog Kit Burns was Framed. He had that blonde Miss Teen USA contestant video posted. When I watched, all I could think was "Thank goodness she's not from Mississippi." You see we have this reputation to overcome. The reputation of being slow, backwards, prejudice, poorly educated, and stuck in the past.
While there are slow, backwards, prejudice, poorly educated, and stuck in the past people here, looking only at those people without seeing the rest of the population leaves a less than truthful picture of us. Yet, when media is in the area, those are the people who get in front of the camera or quoted. Then, we have the problem of movies reminding us of our past and teaching others who normally wouldn't have a clue. It took months after Mississippi Burning was released for me to be able to talk freely when living in Chicago. People accosted us in restaurants and theaters when they heard our accents just dying for us to confirm the movie. "Is it like that?" or "Do you know anyone in the Klan?", they asked. The idea that the movie was based on events in the 60s and focused on a limited population of people seemed evasive. We deserved some of the finger pointing since justice was not fully served in that case until recently, but I always looked around Chicago and felt the neighborhoods were more segregated than anything we produced here.
There were and are problems in Mississippi. I and most Mississippians will be the first to admit them. Yet, given a chance we will step up, take responsibility, and find ways to solve them. Add fat to that list.