It must be nice up there. It must be nice to be able to look wryly at our cultural missteps and loosely identified foibles and chuckle. It must be nice to say (from afar) “gosh, that one sure got the short end of the stick…ah, ah, ah, ah, ah…”
Yes, lawdy, it must be nice to sit up there with your degree and your opportunity and maybe even your own story of overcoming adversity and poke fun at po’ l’il Mississippi. The only problem is that there is nothing nice about this:
Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity at 35.3% of total population … and ranks last in the most number of categories. These include highest rate of child poverty at 31.9%, highest rate of infant mortality at 10.3% lowest median household income at $35,078, highest teen birth rate at 71.9 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 and highest overall rate of STDs. Phew. (Policymic/ What’s the Most Screwed Up Thing…/ Chris Miles/ http://www.policymic.com/articles/64665/what-is-the-most-screwed-up-thing-about-your-state-check-this-chart)
When it is so closely tied to this:
Mississippi’s Black population was 1,111,856 in 2011 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The actual percentage of African Americans in Mississippi was 37% which makes it the largest percent of African Americans of any state in the country.(Blackdemographics.com/ http://blackdemographics.com/states/mississippi/)
What’s a pundit to do? For one thing a pundit could acknowledge that taking pot shots at serious failings in our culture is a dicey business.
It is clear from Chris Miles’ piece, “What’s the Most Screwed Up Thing About Your State” that we spend too much time with our tongues in our cheeks. It is impossible to speak clearly and you will surely bite your tongue. I think it is unfortunate that he didn’t include that Mississippi often ranks lowest or next to the lowest in education (Huffington Post/ 2011.) But maybe that would be just putting insult to injury.
I am not saying that its not okay to be funny; that is what social commentators do sometimes. But this might just be a bit like making that tired joke about Asian drivers without being Asian. Humor is something that is born out of some degree of truth; the best comics in the world will tell you that the biggest laugh is when you are genuine and authentic with your material and with your delivery. But there is something brittle and a bit haughty about this piece. I imagine people who work in cubicles reading this over their first morning coffee and having a laugh because they come from Ohio or Utah…or they had a significantly longer commute getting to Manhattan than 30 minutes. However, I was once told by a comic that the best barometer of humor is whether or not you could tell the joke to the person who is the butt of that joke and they would still laugh. Somehow, I don’t think Mississippi would be laughing at this at all.