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Don't Poke Fun at This Old South State


In an article published last month in the New York Times, New York Congressman Charles Rangel wrote that his state provides a lot of federal tax revenue but doesn't get its fair share of government services in return. States like Mississippi, on the other hand, get more than they deserve. Of course, he went on, "Who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?"

Naturally, people in that southern state were furious at the implication that theirs is a backward state of bumpkins, looking for federal handouts.

In fact, Mississippi, which does rank at or near the bottom in many economic and educational categories, has had it with snickering stereotypes and jokes. Many weeks before Mr. Rangel's comments, a Mississippi businessman named Rick Looser was sitting next to a 12-old boy on an airplane. The boy asked him, "Do you still see the KKK on the streets every day?" He was referring to the Ku Klux Klan, a white-supremacist group whose night riders once terrorized minority citizens. And the boy wasn't done. "Do you hate all black people?" he asked.

Mr. Looser, who heads an advertising agency in the Mississippi capital of Jackson, was so shocked that he and his agency developed public-service advertisements that are now widely used by Mississippi newspapers, broadcasting stations, and schools. Even more so after Mr. Rangel's maligning of the state in the national press.

Can Mississippians read and write? Oh, yes indeed. No other state can claim as many honored and revered writers. And who would have guessed that Mississippi would have the most elected black officials in the nation? Or the world's largest auto plant built from scratch?

The campaign -- called "Mississippi: Believe It!" -- lists many more little-known achievements. Materials documenting them all were sent to one Charles B. Rangel of New York, NY.