New, but Not Improved: Mississippi’s Jim Crow Laws 2.0


Courtesy of Ken Lund

Mississippi House and Senate members passed a new bill resembling Jim Crow laws.

Isabel Choi, Staff Writer

In February of 2023, representatives of Mississippi passed bills in the House and Senate that some are referring to as “Jim Crow 2.0,” and rightfully so.  

Jackson, Mississippi, the state’s capital, has an 85% Black majority population, and this has been the case since its colonial establishment in 1821. Mississippi has a difficult and complicated history of enslaved labor, racism and segregation. 

It was part of the 11 Confederate states during the American Civil War, and Jackson, specifically, was captured five times by the Union before the Confederacy surrendered in April of 1865.  

Since then, Jackson has become the most populous city in Mississippi, and although reforms have been made to combat the insistent issue of discrimination in the Deep South, the city remains riddled with remnants of antebellum America. In recent years, Jackson has faced a water crisis, along with racially coded bills that promote disproportionate police power while demoting Black voices within a majority Black municipality.  

For example, according to the Institute of Black World 21st Century, SB 2343 gives Capitol Police “jurisdiction relative to the enforcement of all laws of the state of Mississippi within the boundaries of the City of Jackson, Mississippi.” 

The law also removes jurisdiction from the city over event permits, including those for protests, in the area near the Capitol. 

Although proponents of this bill claim that it is for the purposes of combating the overwhelmingly high homicide rates in Jackson, this bill targets Black lives. The infamous George Floyd case comes to mind, but this injustice is not unique, as unjustified police violence against Black persons can be identified as a pattern in modern society.  

Adjacent to this bill is HB 1020. Put simply, as introduced HB 1020 will create two new courts within the Capitol Improvement District (CCID), with each judge to be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court. 

Currently, the Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice is Michael K. Randolph, a white Republican male, not at all representative of the 85% Black population of Jackson nor of Mississippi as a whole. After this bill was amended in the Senate, the original two courts were redacted, but it still authorizes the Supreme Court Chief Justice to appoint four special circuit judges for the city of Jackson. 

This new system of appointed judges will replace the previous method of voter-elected judges. Therefore, Randolph and his appointees (most likely also white, male and conservative) will have the power to dictate the political atmosphere of Jackson for decades going forward.  

Both police-focused SB 2343 and discrimination based HB 1020 are set to become laws in July of 2023. While at face-value these bills may appear not to have any racial biases, upon further investigation, it becomes evident that these laws stem from discriminatory racial ideologies.  

And yet, the scariest part of these “new” legislations is that they are not new at all. Alongside these racially-targeted bills were others just like it that either died in committee or in one of the branches.  

One bill that would improve racial awareness and honor Black history in America that unfortunately died in committee was HB 595, which would require the Mississippi State Board of Education to implement a “comprehensive curriculum and courses in African-American studies and racial diversity” in public high schools as an optional elective. 

If the legislators in Mississippi truly cared for the well-being and education of their citizens, this bill had no reason to die, especially in a state with such a large Black population.  

Although it may seem far-fetched watching from the sidelines, Mississippi’s new “Jim Crow Laws” are likely to influence other state legislatures to enact similar laws, especially now that landmark case Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022 and more conservative policies are being enacted on the federal level.  

Villanova, Pennsylvania is not away from the dangers of racism in Mississippi. Here, students are required to take at least two DEI courses as part of the curriculum, but racism is an ideology that does not change after a couple courses in diversity, although the classes may help. 

As Villanova students, I believe we have the responsibility to deeply care and acknowledge the core values of the institution – unitas, caritas and veritas – as part of one’s own daily narrative.  

The Jim Crow Laws have made a comeback in Mississippi and it may seem like the world is reverting to the echoes of a racist past, but it is not too late to change what is unjust. In this modern and interconnected society, it is imperative to be aware of political climates, laws and ideologies, even when one is not directly affected, because someone else’s reality may become yours one day, and you must fight back.