What would a Confederate cultural reckoning look like?
When women confronting Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault helped birth the #MeToo movement, it was one watershed moment that unleashed a flood and brought repugnant behavior into the light. And that moment may have come for racist politicians.
While America has been staring at Richmond asking “What the hell is going on in Virginia,” the Associated Press quietly confirmed that the problem of racism in the halls of power isn’t just a Virginia thing.
The Associated Press confirmed Friday night that Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves (R) attended “Old South” parties at his fraternity Kappa Alpha, which included attending in Confederate costumes.
Members of Kappa Alpha were disciplined during Reeves’ time at Millsaps College for wearing Afro wigs and Confederate battle flags and shouting racist slurs.
Yearbooks are not doing politicians any favors. In a yearbook photo, Reeves is pictured in Confederate uniform. And as recently as 2013, Reeves posed in front of a swath of different Confederate flags.
Another Millsaps student, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence recipient Kiese Laymon, wrote opinion pieces in the student newspaper about the racist nature of the Confederate flag. In his memoir, Laymon recounts fraternity members’ use of racial epithets against him and one of his friends.
Reeves is also presently running for governor, as current Governor Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited.
And so, as the exposure of Harvey Weinstein opened many media elite to the consequences of their actions, it seems that the exposure of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) may have broken the silence on the bad behavior of politicians — ranging from what is charitably categorized as racially insensitive to overtly and vehemently racist.
Though, like #MeToo wasn’t the genesis of that cultural reckoning, the outrage at racism in the political arena didn’t begin with Northam and Reeves. That dubious distinction for this particular cultural moment might go to another Mississippian — Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R).
Hyde-Smith narrowly won re-election last year after joking about attending a lynching. It is worth noting that there were accusations of voter suppression in the run-off that ultimately re-elected her, and that her rise to prominence to begin with was heavily influenced by gerrymandering.
As Reeves draws attention back to Mississippi, calls for Hyde-Smith to resign are re-surfacing once again.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.