Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Vicksburg Post. February 4, 2024.

Editorial: Black History Month has arrived with opportunities to learn

Black History Month is officially upon us and, as always, it comes as a great opportunity to not only teach children and adults alike about the contributions, history, and culture brought about by Black inventors, entrepreneurs, politicians and more, but also to honor these men and women for their work in our country, state and local community.

We all know this time of year is perfect for focusing on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Not only did much of his life and work in the Civil Rights movement take place right here in the Southeast, but we are coming off the national holiday celebrated each year on his birthday in January.

But, there are so many other Black men and women who have left indelible impacts on this part of our country. Just across the bridge in Delta, Madame C.J. Walker is honored each year for her philanthropic work, as well as for her legacy as the first female, self-made millionaire in the United States. Walker developed a line of hair care and cosmetic products specifically for Black women, but is now known as much for her activism as for her business prowess.

Here in Vicksburg, we can boast about residents like jazz musician Milt Hinton, Blues artist Willie Dixon, actress Beah Richards, and fashion designer Patrick Kelly, just to name a few.

One of our community’s more recent residents to make his mark on the national consciousness is football player Malcolm Butler, who burst onto the scene and Americans’ radars when he intercepted a pass from then-Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to seal the victory for his New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIV. Butler has since made many appearances back home in Vicksburg at many charitable events, devoting his time to bettering his hometown.

When it comes to the list of contributions from Black men and women in our part of Mississippi alone, we could go on and on. So, this year, we encourage everyone, student or graduate, child or adult, to take some time and learn more about at least one of our many impressive natives, transplant citizens, or regular visitors. They have all left a unique mark on Vicksburg and its culture.

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Greenwood Commonwealth. February 3, 2024.

Editorial: Protectionism For Casinos

The Mississippi Legislature tried to protect the state’s casino industry when sports betting first became the rage.

Six years ago, it legalized the wagering but said it could only be done at “sportsbooks” located on the premises of a casino.

Of course, that didn’t work. People living in Mississippi found ways to dodge being blocked from online sportsbooks, finding apps and websites that allowed them to wager from their smartphones or computers, or they found surrogates in states without this restriction to place the bets for them. It’s estimated that illegal sports betting in Mississippi totaled $3 billion last year.

A Mississippi House bill wants the state to get a cut of that action, and the casinos, too. It would require online sportsbooks such as DraftKings or FanDuel to partner with a physical casino in Mississippi — obviously for a price to be negotiated between the two — before allowing customers from this state to use them.

Certainly, the casinos have invested heavily in Mississippi, not only with their gambling halls but the hotels, restaurants, golf courses and other amenities they have been required to build in order to get their licenses to operate. But what’s with the selective protectionism?

The Legislature, when it put Mississippi into the lottery business, sure wasn’t worried about protecting casinos from state-operated competition. Nor was it worried when it legalized casinos about protecting the other businesses that might suffer because their customers’ discretionary income was being eaten up by slot machines and blackjack tables.

Protectionism, in whatever form it is implemented, has one certain result. It drives up costs for the consumer. If these online sportsbooks partner with casinos, the sportsbooks aren’t going to just willingly take a cut in their profits. They are going to try to figure out how to pass that “protection fee” onto the gamblers.

The proliferation of gambling in this state and nation has been detrimental in many ways. It preys on people’s weaknesses and can be financially crushing. But that die has been cast, and there’s no chance of going back to the days when betting was less prevalent because it was not so heavily marketed and mostly illegal.

If, however, you are going to have legal betting, the state should not try to decide which operators benefit the most financially from it. It should take its cut, stand back and let the market decide the winners and the losers.

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Columbus Dispatch. January 31, 2024.

Editorial: The W name change isn’t being rushed. It’s been 42 years.

On Thursday, the task force assigned to come up with a new name for Mississippi University for Women will submit its choice to the president Nora Miller. A renaming bill is expected to be submitted to the legislature by mid-February.

That’s the conventional wisdom, at any rate. One thing that can be said about this year-and-a-half process is that no part of it has been easy.

After the blowback from the proposed “Mississippi Brightwell University” caused the administration to abandon the name in early January, a new expedited process, which allowed community suggestions followed by a survey on the top three submitted names, was put in place. The three “finalist” names were selected from 237 suggestions from alumni, 61 suggestions from faculty and staff, 17 from students and 18 from the communications agency assisting with the process.

The finalists are Wynbridge, Welbright and Wynbright.

There are a couple of things to be noted about the three finalists.

The first is that all three names are inventions, not to be associated with historic figures or geography. It can be safely assumed that all three names were put through a search on urbandictionary.com to avoid the silliness associated with the Brightwell name.

There is nothing particularly wrong about inventing names. It happens all the time with brands and businesses, and the university is both a brand and a business of sorts.

Second, and perhaps most important, all three start with the letter “W,” a nod to the university’s history and the colloquial name for the school, “The W.” A university name that begins with a “W” validates continued use of the familiar “The W.”

A fourth suggestion, not listed as a finalist, but with a strong following from a vocal portion of the alumni is “The W: A Mississippi University.” Consider that a dark horse candidate.

All of these names are intended to strike a balance between honoring the school’s unique history and recognizing the need for a name that accurately describes the present and future of the university.

There are, of course, those who are opposed to any name-change at all. This group is passionate, but — in our eyes — wrong. The university is not a museum dedicated to honoring the past. It is a fully-functioning educational institution whose focus must be devoted to the future. The name should reflect that. That doesn’t mean the school’s significant history must be abandoned, though. In fact, the university has devoted much time, energy and passion in honoring that history.

Whatever name is chosen will not be immediately embraced. Let’s face it: If there was a name that would satisfy everyone, it would have been adopted in 2002, when the university last explored a name change but dropped the effort in response to bitter criticism (from alumni).

The students of today and tomorrow will not be invested in the name of the university in the way alumni are (consider that only 17 students suggested names). What will matter to students are the quality of education they receive and all the things that are a part of the university experience. Their needs should be the highest priority.

Circumstances change, and universities need to reflect that change.

This will be the fourth name change for the university. None of those previous changes were made on a whim. Each change was adopted to reflect a new reality.

Mississippi University for Women became an obsolete name the moment the Supreme Court opened the door for male students 42 years ago.

The impending name change will not be universally embraced.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

We encourage university leadership to stay the course.

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