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Today in the Post-Racial Society



I interrupt my avalanche of work to bring you this delightful story from the post-racial paradise of Mississippi.

Along a secluded gravel road that runs between a riverbank and cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta region, a purple sign marks the area where Emmett Till’s mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in the summer of 1955.

For eight years, the sign has been riddled with bullet holes.

The 14-year-old from Chicago was visiting the South when he was accused of whistling at a white woman and murdered. His death became a rallying cry for the civil rights movement, but several signs meant to memorialize the killing — including the one on the riverbank between the towns of Glendora, Miss., and Webb, Miss. — have been vandalized by spray paint and bullet holes. Others have been stolen.

It took a visiting filmmaker, Kevin Wilson Jr., to rally support for replacing the sign by the Tallahatchie River when he shared a photo of it on his Facebook page this month.

“I’m at the exact site where Emmett Till’s body was found floating in the Tallahatchie River 61 years ago,” Mr. Wilson wrote on Oct. 15. “The site marker is filled with bullet holes. Clear evidence that we’ve still got a long way to go.”

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  • Thom

    To be fair, Southern (white) Man shoots all signs, no matter what they say. But this one no doubt gets extra shots taken at it.

    • NeonTrotsky

      Hell even here in Oregon its rare to see a deer crossing sign that hasn’t been shot at

      • efgoldman

        even here in Oregon its rare to see a deer crossing sign that hasn’t been shot at

        Yeah, the deer really don’t like it when their secret crossings are revealed to the world.
        There was a sale of deer rifles, and the bucks bought them all.

        • ExpatChad


    • yet_another_lawyer

      It would be somewhat fascinating, anthropologically speaking, to catalogue signs across the United States and count the bullet holes. We just need some enterprising grad students.

      • Informally, I’d bet it clusters a ton. Seems like if you see a sign that’s been plunked a lot, you’re likely to see a bunch more right around there, and then it’ll go back to zero even in very rural, gun heavy areas.

      • guthrie

        With bulletproof clothing.

    • delazeur

      That was my first thought as well, but I believe this sign is much closer to town than the typical bullet-ridden rural sign.

  • Joe_JP

    our resident Mississippian must be so proud

  • ChrisS

    But southern gentlemen are so fond of monuments …

    … oh. Only monuments for those people.

  • Murc

    OT: Erik, any plans for a post about the coming truck driverpocalypse?

    (For those that don’t know; last week a self-driving truck moved a load of beer from Texas to Colorado. There are of course a million caveats here; it had to roll along a carefully planned route, there was a driver in the cab although not in the drivers seat, it couldn’t go into the cities proper, etc. But a self-driving truck got onto a highway, in normal traffic, no gimmicks or cleared courses, and moved capital from one place to another. Kind of an ominous sign.)

    • Schadenboner


      Sorry, for the record: it was Budweiser, not beer.

      • Howlin Wolfe

        So, beer-flavored soda pop with added member of the hydroxyl group. I’m not sure the al-key-hol in Bud is naturally produced.

    • Rob in CT

      Erik has posted on it before, though maybe only as a supporting argument rather than a full post on it?

      The numbers are ~3.5 million drivers, plus a couple million more in various support roles?

      The most likely scenario in the short term is a shift to having the computers handle long-haul and human drivers do the “last mile” stuff. Which means the future looks bleak for long-haul truckers for sure, though it’s not going to happen overnight.

      Which gives us a window of opportunity to respond via government policy. The groundwork should be laid now.

      As far as I know, the options are these:

      1) Luddite option – ban/refuse to authorize self-driving vehicles. I think this is the wrong call, and politically unlikely to boot.

      2) Jobs program, likely focused on infrastructure (which, of course, cannot pass congress w/o a Dem majority in the House, which isn’t going to happen). Hope that by the time it winds down, the shock has been absorbed.

      3) Targeted assistance/retraining program. Something specifically for truckers. I’m not really sure what I’d toss into such a proposal, but my gut feeling is that this might have a slightly better chance of passage (still probably won’t pass).

      4) UBI or Jobs Guarantee, because we’re the goddamned batman. Zero chance of passage at this time for either. But we can dream…

      Since I think we have a little time, the Dems need to work up policy proposals in response to this. So they are there and ready to go if/when there is a window of opportunity. Also, failing that, to beat the GOP over the head with.

      • ChrisS

        The most likely scenario in the short term is a shift to having the computers handle long-haul and human drivers do the “last mile” stuff.

        Aircraft can fly themselves, but we’re still paying airline pilots tons of money like suckers.

        • Rob in CT

          Well, there’s that option too: you pay to have a human along for the long-haul ride, but not actually driving. I doubt that human gets paid much, though.

        • guthrie

          I seem to recall there are a couple of pilots on here who can detail exactly how “tons” is in fact a few kg.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      Beer is capital?

      • Murc

        Of course. It’s an asset. Beer is absolutely capital. So is a pile of lumber, or steel. Or machinery.

    • Linnaeus

      To be even more OT, there’s another aspect of our brave new world of self driving vehicles that I’m not sure has gotten the attention it deserves, at least in the public discourse about that.

      The DDoS attack of last week got me thinking about this. While it’s quite possible that self driving vehicles can reduce accidents and hence injuries and fatalities from those accidents, there’s now the new risk of vehicles being open to, for lack of a better term, “cyber” threats. Self driving vehicles as a matter of course are going to be equipped with a lot of networked devices that may have vulnerabilities that a hacker can exploit. So imagine what could happen if a vehicle gets hacked, or even worse, if the devices that the vehicles will be communicating with (which, presumably, will be serving many such vehicles) get hacked.

      Now, I’m not a computer scientist, software engineer, or other kind of IT expert, so I could be way off base on this. But in the race to produce these vehicles and get them on the road, I hope that enough thought is being put to securing them from exploits.

    • royko

      Keep the velocity constant. Son, never mind them brakes
      Proceed with maximum efficiency ’cause we got a run to make
      The boys are thirsty in Arvada, and there’s beer in Texarcana
      And we’ll bring it back no matter what it takes.

      West bound and down, loaded up and truckin’
      We’re gonna do what we’ve been programmed to do
      We’ve got a finite distance to go and a minimally acceptable duration to get there
      I’m west bound, just watch ol’ Bandit move!

      The screenplay writes itself.

  • CaptainBringdown

    For eight years, the sign has been riddled with bullet holes.

    I wonder what could have happened ca. 8 years ago that might have inspired this action?

    • (((Malaclypse)))

      That’s like the square root of a million – we’ll just never know.

      • Colin Day

        I’ll go math pedant and point out that the square root of a million is a thousand. Yes, I know it’s a joke, but could we have jokes that make more sense mathematically?

        • vic rattlehead

          The joke is that the answer is so easy, you don’t have to be too good at math to figure it out. Just like, hmm, could this have anything to do with the first black president? We’ll never know.

        • FMguru

          A proper math pedant would know your answer is only half-right. -1000 is another perfectly correct solution to the square root of 1 million.

    • yet_another_lawyer

      I read this somewhat skeptically. I seriously doubt anybody was tracking “number of bullet holes in the sign” such that it’s possible to say there was an uptick 8 years ago. The article doesn’t even make this claim, although it implies it (whether or not the sign was riddled with bullet holes prior to 8 years ago is left unstated).

      • Grumpy

        Maybe the sign was erected eight or nine years ago?

  • DrDick

    The South shall rise again (and again and again and again ….). It is sort of our very own national zombie apocalypse.

  • Relatedly, I went to the new African American Museum in D.C. last week. I had to wait in line for an hour just to get in (advance tickets are unavailable until March at least, but there’s first-come, first-serve tickets every morning). It’s a holy shit experience in a lot of ways, especially the history section which is three ascending underground floors from the origins of slavery up to the present.

    The second floor has Till’s coffin, and even among all the other exhibits there, it’s a serious gut punch. There’s a museum staffer there to let you know that no photos are allowed, and then you walk it and it’s a damn kid’s coffin, short as hell and worn out from years underground.

    But, hey, shoot the sign, jackasses.

  • keta

    I can’t recommend highly enough Shane Bauer’s piece in Mother Jones as he recounts his time with para-military types “helping” the Arizona border patrol keep America safe.

    And Mississippi? What the fuck?

    • efgoldman

      And Mississippi? What the fuck?

      What else is new?

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