The Sins of Mississippi

“…visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:7


My ancestors settled in southern Mississippi,
mostly farmers, a few mill workers, land
owners, but poor. In the records I have reviewed
I found no record of any of them claiming
another man as chattel. I am not descended
from slave owners.

My parents were seniors the year their high
school was desegregated, separated from
friends and told who they would associate with,
given no more choice than the black kids who
were bussed in to a school far from home,
and told to integrate with kids they did not know.

My Grandmother was in the first class
of female police officers in Jackson.
I only remember her last years on the force,
when she worked Battlefield Park, looking
out for the “little nigger children” on the playground
and rousting bums from the benches. There
was a man, Robert, who did odd jobs for her.
He and his family were “good colored folk”.

1973, south of Hattiesburg on I59, three small kids
in the backseat, my Mom and aunt in the front,
three young black men on motorcycles pulled
alongside, one of them kept motioning to the car
and then pointing to the side of the road. My aunt.
scared, screamed NO, then ignored them until
they moved on. A few miles later we stopped
for gas and discovered the left rear tire was flat.

The sins of Mississippi have stained my family,
to the extent that I cannot now voice criticism
of a black man without being judged by the color
of my skin rather than the content of my character.
I hope I am the fourth generation, and these sins
will not be carried on to my son. My skin is white,
except for the charred scars from where I have
been branded a racist.



Filed under Poetry

2 responses to “The Sins of Mississippi

  1. Kim

    Good poem Mark. I would say most, but not all,are products of how we are raised. I see it today in myself and my friends. I think we should help each other to keep learning, not judging, but helping others to see the light. Thanks for writing about a hot topic.

  2. This must have been very hard to write. You did it well.

Some of what I write is true, some is fiction; most is merely possibility.

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