Mississippi Burning (1988)

From past experience, I know to mentally prepare myself when I’m told something is going to be about racism and etcetera… somehow, it just seems like there’s never going to be enough mental preparation to get through things like this.

and this is just a movie. For some people, this was their life.

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It’s horrifying what human nature is like. What does it take for someone to be capable of such things? To condemn a person, just because of the colour of their skin.

“Where does all the hatred come from?”

Mississippi Burning, to me, was basically a study of racism and hatred (or hatred in the context of racism), how it’s cultivated, encouraged and then how it festers inside until it takes over. Hatred stems from so many things, past experiences, jealousy.. or just in differences. We fear change, we fear what is different, what is unknown to us. And after a while, that fear grows into hatred, and manifests in a way that we don’t even remember. This is the case of the Mississippi folk, so brainwashed and full of blind obedience that the idea of killing, or doing harm to another human (something so much against our common beliefs) has become a norm. More horrifying though, their complete disregard for a child’s life, as we see one of the members of the clan kicking a Black boy’s face in just outside a church.

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So, where does all the hatred come from? Like Mrs Pells said, hatred is not something we’re born with, it’s learned (one of the main messages). It seems as though someone must claim the blame for all the horrors we saw but, can we really blame them? Look at the children’s faces as they’re with their parents in the rally. There was one scene where a little boy had his head laid on his father’s shoulder and the look on his face was just.. It’s quite something to see a child in that kind of environment, surrounded by hate he probably doesnt yet understand. Is it their fault that they turn out this way? Although we’d like to believe the myth that kids don’t see skin colour, that’s really not true. They do. The only difference is that they don’t have any pre-existing attitudes to the differences. Which is why proper explanations are so important. Imagine growing up in a micro-community where hatred of blacks was hinted at you by your parents, where those different are regarded of as the “underclass” in school (using bible phrases no less). What would that do to you?

Two Wolves

A grandfather teaches his grandson about life. He says “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

“Which wolf will win?”

“The one you feed.”

It really makes you think about the influence of environmental factors in shaping a person.

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I’ve read about the Ku Klux Klan before, and it’s still hard to process. It really made me question how an entire community can be so stuck in their beliefs (despite how irrational they may be), and how completely disconnected they seem from the outside world. Just look at the picture above “NEVER NEVER NEVER”. Really? And his speech to the reporters about how “the state of Mississippi does not accept Jews, Papists, Turks, Mongols, Orientals..” (it goes on). Theres even one part where the Sheriff says “the rest of America doesn’t mean jack sh*t. You’re in Mississippi now.” How are these crazy ideologies sustained? Take the Westboro Baptist Church, despite all the hypocrisy within their own members and all the disapproval they receive from the outside world, they seem perfectly contented to go on living with their skewed views of life and people.

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It’s the whole in-group out-group thing again. Superiority, positions of power and what have you. The townsfolk  are led to believe that their tiny little world would fall into anarchy if they were to let the blacks run free, because after all, they are dirty and etc. They’re led to believe that the blacks are a threat and thus, retaliate accordingly. Racism seems to usually work this way (Nazi: Jews were monopolising the business etc). They try to keep things like this, ensuring there is constant segregation (and sense of class difference) in almost everything (water fountains, buses, restaurants, toilets). They even go so far to destroy places of religion, churches (despite the fact they themselves are  CHRISTIANS), which they interpret as signs of autonomy. Even when they keep silent, they’re still threatened and hurt (diner boy). All these fear tactics work really well, scaring the black minority into their “place”. It may even have them believe they themselves are what caused it to be this way in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, although this may not be the case here.

The whites, they feel entitled to behave the way they do, thus continuing to demoralise and devalue the minority. Even in the courthouse, we see the defendants who burned the house down sit there looking smug throughout the trial. The judge then has the nerve to give them a crazily light sentence and then to say they were, to some effect, provoked by the blacks. With that, it almost seems as though there are no consequences for their crimes, they’re basically being encouraged.

In any case, all this got me thinking about the racism in our country. We all sort of know it’s there, and while it may not be as violent or as in-your-face as that in America, we can’t deny it’s existence. In one way, it is thankfully not as terrifying living here now than it would’ve been in Mississippi during the reign of the Ku Klux Klan, but because of it’s almost hidden presence in our country, not much is being done (yet) to overcome it. When one does try (like in recent events), they get punished.. So most of us just quietly talk about it amongst ourselves.

The insidious nature of the racism in our country just makes it all the more threatening.

One of the dialogues that stuck to me was that said by Agent Ward about the mayor’s suicide.

“Anyone’s guilty who lets these things happens and pretends like it isn’t. No, he was guilty all right. Just as guilty as the fanatics who pulled the trigger. Maybe we all are”

Maybe we all are.

word count: 1120

Overall, the movie was pretty good, but there are of course, some things I disagree with

-the romance between Pell’s wife and Anderson (which seemed unnecessary)

-the unrealistic methods the FBI resorted to (which I do admit I rooted for, and enjoyed, but I don’t think it’s sending the right message)

-the WAAAAAYY too light sentences the criminals received. at the end of the film (although I supposed in retrospect, they got heavier sentences than the first 3 convicted for molotov-ing the guy’s house…) and it was sort of an important event in history…

Also, i think this movie has officially scared me away from razors. Not that I have to use them or anything but the idea of them is just frightening. I blame Final Destination.

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btw, this may be interesting 🙂 (and also, on a lighter-ish note on racism, try watching “the Help”)

a study about hatred

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One thought on “Mississippi Burning (1988)

  1. For the first time in forever
    There’ll be magic, there’ll be fun!
    For the first time in forever
    I could be noticed by someone…
    And I know it is totally crazy
    To dream I’d find romance…
    But for the first time in forever
    At least I’ve got a chance!

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