Let the full picture inform your opinions
Brookhaven has received plenty of national attention lately, thanks to the U.S. Senate race between Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy.
Some of that attention has been positive, but much has not been. The harshest light was shined by columnist Will Bunch, who wrote a piece with the headline: “Why the blood of a 1955 Mississippi murder drenches today’s U.S. Senate race.”
It’s a provocative idea for sure. Bunch tells the story of voting rights activist Lamar Smith, who was murdered in front of the courthouse in Brookhaven in 1955, reportedly while holding absentee ballots. Though dozens of people were present when the black man was shot, no one was ever tried for the crime. It’s been a stain on Brookhaven ever since.
Bunch draws a line from Smith’s murder to Hyde-Smith’s recent comments about a public hanging. Along the way, he pulls from a Mississippi Today report that claims Brookhaven has “doubled down” on the controversial state flag by flying it “every 50 yards or so on the town’s main drag.”
That bit of detail about the flag aims to show that the City of Brookhaven is something it is not. The flags referenced in the story were placed along the boulevard for Veterans Day, the same as they are placed for other holidays.
But reading the Mississippi Today report — and Bunch’s column — leads one to believe that the city has the flags permanently installed alongside the boulevard. It does not.
Another detail the national columnist gets wrong: While Hyde-Smith is considered “from Brookhaven” by just about everyone, thanks to her time as a state senator and her family’s farm here in the county, she is not technically from here. She grew up in Lawrence County and graduated high school there before attending Co-Lin and USM.
None of these mistakes makes Bunch’s opinion wrong — or right — but it will give locals pause if they read it. Too often, those forming opinions from hundreds of miles away do so without the full picture. We encourage those looking at Brookhaven from afar to get the details right before shining a national spotlight on a place they had never heard of two months ago.