Listen to this article here
Sign-Up for a free subscription to The Black Wall Street Times‘ daily newsletter, Black Editors’ Edition (BEE) – our curated news selections & opinions by us for you.
Black State Senators of Mississippi expressed outrage after Republicans voted Wednesday to reject the confirmation of a Black state superintendent of education who had already been nominated by the state School Board.
Black State Senators are accusing their Republican colleagues of blocking the nominee because of his race and because he once wrote about the state’s role in perpetuating racism, the Associated Press reported.
“Because we reject him because of his race, we’re rejecting God because God made him that way,” said Democratic Sen. David Jordan, who is Black.
The rejection comes as the state Legislature passes bills to takeover the court system and Capitol district police in the Black-majority city of Jackson.
Robert P. Taylor had been serving unofficially as the state’s leader of public education since being nominated in January. He said no other nominee had ever been rejected before now.
“This whole confirmation was a political process, and I knew that coming in,” Taylor told The Associated Press on Wednesday evening after the Senate vote.
The Board of Education that nominated Taylor is composed of members who are appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and House speaker, all Republicans.
Mississippi Republican Senators accused of racism in state with long history
Taylor grew up in Laurel, Mississippi, before working in North Carolina for 30 years. He would’ve been just the second Black State Superintendent of Mississippi after Henry Johnson served from 2002 to 2005. Only five Republicans voted with Democrats to confirm Taylor’s nomination.
“This whole confirmation was a political process, and I knew that coming in,” Taylor told The Associated Press on Wednesday evening.
“The fact that they didn’t, that is what I have to live with,” Taylor said. “I will always respect the process.”
Despite having the highest Black populations of any U.S. state at 38%, White politicians have long exercised systemic racism against their own constituents in the public education system.
For decades, Republicans refused to follow the rule of law handed down by the 1954 Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision, which declared segregated schools unconstitutional.
After Black political leaders refused a deal where schools would remain separate with more funding for Black schools, racist White leaders launched an all-out political war against the federal ruling. According to the historical Mississippi Encyclopedia, theu included:
- 1954: Voters ratified a state constitutional amendment that allowed the state to close public schools in any district where segregation was threatened.
- 1956: Mississippi Legislature passes resolution affirming authority over federal decisions that go against segregation.
- 1956: Mississippi Legislature creates spy agency, known as the Sovereignty Commission, to enforce segregation and voter disenfranchisement.
During this period, as racist lawmakers used their political power to enforce systemic racism and shutter Black schools that didn’t comply, racist citizens used their social power to intimate, threaten and murder Black activists like Medger Evers in 1963, Black ministers in 1955 and children like Emmett Till that same year.
Republicans deny racism
Meanwhile, Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, a white Republican from Leaksville, denied racism played any role in Taylor’s rejection.
“I think what really hurt Dr. Taylor the most … is we have several low-performing schools in our state,” DeBar said. “We would like to see someone with a better resume on improving low-performing schools.”
The Republican-picked state Board of Education conducted a national search before choosing Taylor.
“Dr. Taylor did everything that we tell people in the state of Mississippi to do — get a good education, try to use that good education, go out and get your experience and then come back to the state of Mississippi and give Mississippi all of your educational talents and all of your educational experience and give back to the community that gave to you,” said Black Democratic Sen. Derrick Simmons of Greenville.
The Mississippi Board of Education will continue to search for another state superintendent following the rejection.