To Stop Flight, Be Consistent

There is a serious disconnect right now in Jackson. Since hysterical media reports of recent weeks about continuing "white flight" out of Jackson caused, well, a degree of hysteria among some city residents, it's been interesting, and encouraging, to watch many scramble to action to try to counter the loss of residents to the suburbs and beyond.

It has also been a tad ironic to see a number of people who have campaigned and screamed and proselytized about how "dangerous" Jackson is suddenly decide to call for a marketing campaign to counter the city's bad reputation.

Uh, you can't have it both ways.

Jackson's very open secret is that politicians, both in the city and in the state, dump on the city in order to gain political power. They and their campaign organizers are more than happy to twist crime statistics and rankings out of context to scare certain people (frankly, usually white people) into voting for them.

The Jackson Free Press has warned for years about the dangers of the kind of empty crime rhetoric—the kind that doesn't actually discuss the roots of crime or how to prevent it—that politicians just love to put in their mailers to certain neighborhoods in the city. In particular, the Morgan-Quitno (now owned by CQ Press) "dangerous" rankings have been completely wrenched out of context by candidates all the way back to Wilson Carroll (when he ran for district attorney in 2003), as well as Haley Barbour in his first run for the governor's mansion the same year. (In fact, Carroll actually used rankings from the years before his opponent was DA to run against her.)

More recently, the Better Jackson PAC used the "dangerous" rankings to try to get Marshand Crisler elected mayor. And just this year, new Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell slammed Jackson as the "14th most dangerous" city in his campaign pitch. And we all know that Mayor Frank Melton was elected based on crime hysteria—and what a nightmare that was for our city.

Now, a group of Jacksonians is uniting in a new group, Jackson 2020, with talks of "marketing" the city better. Many of the same people who have been involved in pushing "dangerous" hysteria in the past are now part of this effort.

We urge this group to consider the cold, hard fact that political rhetoric has hurt this city badly. It is simply no excuse to talk down the city to, supposedly, get elected to help it. The sad truth is that much of this rhetoric sticks and, in turn, drives out residents and hurts our locally owned businesses.

As an election year in Mississippi unfolds, we urge the participants in Jackson 2020 and other residents and politicos to think carefully about the kinds of words they choose to get their candidates elected. Words matter.

If you care about Jackson, first hold yourself and your own friends accountable before designing expensive marketing campaigns. Talk up the city, and talk about crime causes and prevention. And if you really care about the city, spend quality time tackling poverty, creating jobs and mentoring. We've said it before: Crime is not our best problem; it's our biggest symptom.

Previous Comments


I bolted jackson after 26 years of living in the city.... NE JXN/ Fondren/ Belhaven. I was an advocate for Jackson...but Jackson left me. Reasons: 1.Roads/infrastructure are horrible and we all know without the federal stimulus money, Ridgewood road would still be falling apart and unpaved.....and a little fyi, Ridgewood was last paved in the late 70's. 2.Higher taxes...all taxes. 3. Weak school system- I am a product of public schools myself.The money per student spent in JPS is unbelievably high for the number of students in the district....with poor results. 4. Leadership is a joke on the city council and all about race....and the mayor now "gets it" this time???. Right, sure you do Harvey. One reason I did not leave Jackson? Crime!... had nothing to do with it. There are many good things going on I know, like I said I lived there 26 years... If Jackson can lose me...what about the ones with zero ties there?

interested observer


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