Other Campuses: …And justice for all

By Daily Mississippian

(U-WIRE) OXFORD, Miss. – Forty-one years later, justice is finally served for Edgar Ray Killen.

On June 21, 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered along a dark roadside in Neshoba (Miss.) County. Exactly 41 years later, Edgar Ray Killen became the first man to be convicted on state charges related to the horrific murders. The irony of 41 years elapsing before justice was served, at least partially, should not be forgotten.

A jury of 12 men and women convicted Edgar Ray Killen of three separate manslaughter charges. This trial should not, however, begin – or end – with the conviction of an 80-year-old man who was seen napping during portions of his own trial. If this conviction is the only thing that comes out of this trial, our state has failed itself. Our state will show it has not made much progress past the same aims that brought Goodman, Schwerner and thousands like them to the state.

We should use this trial and case as a glimpse into the current plight of the black community in this state and elsewhere. Blacks today still face many of the economic, political and social injustices they faced in the 1960s – at the height of the civil rights movement. De jure (legally defined) designated segregation has been broken, but de facto segregation still exists. To blame Mississippi alone for these problems would be too easy.

The trial must be a catalyst for the entire state to conduct a painful and close examination of its past and its future. This process was conducted in Philadelphia, with a multiracial group called the Philadelphia Coalition. Only through this examination can our state begin to fully understand what occurred that dark June night and countless other nights with lynch mobs.

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    These murders were not isolated incidents conducted by a few rogues. They were obstructed, if not condoned, by people at the highest levels of state government – people who are our elected officials.

    The trial was a first step towards truly honoring the legacy of the three murdered civil rights workers. Now begins the more difficult task of changing the state for the better: something else that has not happened much over the 40 years.

    A bright future stands in front of a state with a dark and terrible past, but to make the transition it will take much more than convicting an 80-year-old part-time preacher.

    Staff Editorial

    Daily Mississippian (U. Mississippi)