You aren't from around here, are you...

By BEVERLY JOHNSON,

‘You’re not from around here, are you?’

To the Editor:

While stricken by the crudeness, racism and ethnocentrism of his remarks, I’ve also been intrigued by President Trump’s recent pronouncements that certain people in the United States who are black and with foreign heritage “go back to where they came from.”   

Part of what has intrigued me is how his statements resonate or harmonize with a stance often taken by persons who proudly identify themselves as native born, white Mississippians. Just as Trump is now claiming that “if you’re not from here” you have no right to criticize or negatively comment on the United States, some Mississippians strike a similar pose in regards to their state in general or their local communities specifically. While white, born here Trump is blatantly saying to persons he labels as foreign born, black outsiders that they should shut their mouths because they no right to speak or comment, white Mississippians seem to relish saying the same to those they perceive or label as “outsiders.” 

Now, not being black myself, or a person of color, I can’t speak to whether African-Americans in Mississippi presently ever hear it spoken out loud, or expressed in people’s countenance or attitudes that they should, “Go back to Africa.”

In the news, after Trump’s antics in North Carolina, a few reports did appear of black persons encountering whites who used Trump’s words against them, i.e. “go back home.”  What I can speak to though is that as a “white” person in Mississippi, however, I cannot count the numerous times that self identifying native white Mississippians have told me to “go back to where you came from” and incidentally “shut up.” 

Conversationally or socially, this Mississippian pose often starts out with what seems like a benevolent question which is “Are you from here?” Other times it emerges with a bit of belligerence or hostility attached as in, “You’re NOT from round here, are you?” Whether seemingly benevolent, mildly belligerent, or openly hostile, these questions are the prelude for allowing those who consider themselves “true” Mississippians to identify and compartmentalize those who are not,  

But then, what is the point of this little social dance which Mississippians perform? As said in my opening paragraph, It serves the same function for Mississippians as it does for Trump.  It allows both Trump and native Mississippians to negate, reject, or essentially strip of legitimacy anything that an “outsider” says, especially if perceived as remotely “negative.”  For Trump, that is anything he perceives as “negative” about “his” United States. For Mississippians, that is anything they decide to perceive as “negative” about “their” beloved state or “their” beloved local community. 

For both it serves to protect and preserve an entrenched status quo, with a “love it [you must!] or leave it [you must!]” attitude. 

What prompts my above comments? 

It could have been prompted by other interactions in the past, but this weekend it was prompted by this. As anyone attuned to the news may have heard, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) just recently released highly detailed data on the number of opioid pills distributed to each county in each state in the United States. This includes Attala County. When I posted the data on Facebook, verbatim as it exists in the database, the Mississippian social dance took off. The data happened to identify that a local pharmacy in Kosciusko was listed in the database as the number one “receiver” of opioid pills (hydrocodone and oxycodone) in the county. Fred’s was number two, but barely. I made no comment about the data or what it might imply, or what one could infer from it. As well, the data itself contained no negative judgments. Because many persons around the country attuned to the news had been looking up their county in the database and discussing the findings, I thought it was of interest. Also, since Mississippi is presently suing drug distributors for fostering an opioid crisis in Mississippi, all such data for Mississippi is under examination.

Wow! After I posted the data in Facebook, the native Mississippian “she’s an outsider” dance began. 

“Are you FROM here?” “If not, WHY are you posting this.” “Why do YOU care?” “How dare YOU criticize OUR beloved Christian local pharmacy.”

I criticized no one simply posted the facts.

“Your FB profile is a fake.” “You’re a troll.” “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t post their own picture on Facebook.”

A local “Bubba” asserted, “I’ve lived here all my life and I don’t know this person, so I imagine she is a nobody.” 

One Facebook queen bee (a Bubette?) ordered everyone to ignore me and the data, later, I believe, calling me a “heifer.”

My Facebook profile was posted showing my “out of state” university. Several people out and out rejected the data itself, claiming it was “dated” and “old” and said “nothing. They didn’t recognize that it framed the years in which the opioid crisis and/or epidemic took off in Mississippi and elsewhere and probably didn’t know that recognizing that cumulative statistical data often lags in years. 

­­One person asserted that the data was flawed because she was the wife of a local pharmacist and “knew better.” Someone hauled out the simple minded “she’s got her drawers in a wad” remark. Reading most of the remarks, I was quite pleased to have read in last week’s Star-Herald that the five-year program for improving local education is to include a critical thinking component. 

Well anyway, for all the self proclaimed born and bred local folks, including all the “Bubbas” and “Bubettes,”  here is the data, once again, whether you deem me an anti-Christian, outsider heifer with wadded up drawers and a degree from the University of Florida or not:

“From 2006 to 2012 there were 854,553,185 prescription pain pills supplied to Mississippi.” 

“From 2006 to 2012 there were 4,730,760 prescription pain pills per year, supplied to Attala County.”

“1,492,260 of the pills were distributed by AmerisourceBergen Drug and 2,237,600 were manufactured by Actavis Pharma, Inc.” “Sullivan’s Discount Drugs, Kosciusko, pharmacy received the highest number of pills.

[Source:  Search Google for: DEA Database and go to “Where the Pills Went” and click on “Jump to Data for Your Community.” (Which also happens to be MY community!)

Beverly E. Johnson

Kosciusko