Leonard Pitts Jr.: Doesn’t MS have more pressing concerns?

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 9:42 PM

It's a lower percentage of high school graduates than nearly any other state. It's an unemployment rate higher than nearly any other state.

Leonard Pitts Jr.: Doesn’t MS have more pressing concerns?

A portrait of Mississippi.

It's a lower percentage of high school graduates than nearly any other state. It's an unemployment rate higher than nearly any other state.

Mississippi’s fourth-graders carry out more poorly than any other children in the country in math. Also in reading. Its smoking rates are among the highest in the country. Along with W Virginia, it's the fattest state in the Union. It's the highest poverty rate and the lowest life expectancy.

Tiny wonder twenty-four/seven Wall Street, a content provider for Yahoo!, Time and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Today, among others, has dubbed MS the “worst state to live in.”

All of which provides a certain pungent context for what happened latest week as Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a bill legalizing discrimination against LGBT people. It's dubbed the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” which is a cynical lie. The only thing it protects is those doing the discriminating.

You wish to refuse to rent to a lesbian couple? You’re covered.

You wish to refuse to hire a transgendered woman? Go for it.

You wish to force your homosexual adopted son to undergo so-called conversion therapy? No problem.

You wish to kick an adulterous heterosexual out of your hardware store? Yep, the law says you can even do that.

Indeed, it says that any gay, transgendered or adulterous individual whose behavior offends the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” of a person, for-profit business, government employee or religious organization can be refused service.

As if your sexual orientation or marital status were the business of the cashier ringing up your groceries or the barber trimming your hair.

It's worth noting that similar laws have been propounded in other states – Georgia, Indiana, Arkansas – only to be turned back below threat of boycott by Fortune five hundred companies and professional sports teams doing business there. “The worst state to live in,” was immune to that kind of pressure because it's number such teams or businesses.

You’d think that'd tell them something. You’d think it'd propose to MS that it's more pressing concerns than salving the damage feelings of some putative Christian who doesn’t wish to bake a cake for Lester and Steve.

But addressing those concerns would require serious thought, sustained effort, foresight, creativity and courage. It's easier just to scapegoat the gays.

So the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union rails against LGBT people and adulterers, never mind that if they all pulled up stakes tomorrow, MS would still be the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union.

The point isn't that such bigotry would be impossible in places that are healthier or wealthier. The point isn't that such places are immune to it. Rather, the point is simply this: Isn’t it fascinating how reliably social div works as a distraction from things that ought to matter more?

After all, MS just passed a law that eighty % of its eighth-graders would struggle to read.

If they graduate, those youthful people will see for work in a state with an unemployment rate significantly higher than the national average. But if one of those kids does manage to discover work at the local doughnut shop say, she will – until the law is struck down, at least – have the satisfaction of refusing service to some homosexual man, safe in the information that the state that failed to educate her or give her a fighting chance in a complex world, presently has her back.

One feels sorrier for her than for the homosexual man. Her life will be hemmed by the fact of living it in a state that teaches her to deflect and distract, not resolve and engage.

The homosexual man can purchase doughnuts anywhere.

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