White Supremacists, Goddamn; Find Another Country To Be Part Of…

Nearly 60 years ago, two Civil Rights activists–singer and songwriter Phil Ochs, and classically trained singer, composer and pianist Nina Simone–wrote and performed two of the most powerful songs of that period: Och’s “Here’s To The State of Mississippi”, and Simone’s “Mississippi, Goddamn.”

 Ochs, a white folk-singer and activist from Far Rockaway, NY, volunteered for the Mississippi Caravan of Music in conjunction with Freedom Summer of 1964, the campaign to register Black Voters in Mississippi. During that summer, three civil rights workers — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were beaten and shot to death by local Mississippi police officers working in kahoots with the KKK.

 Ochs was so outraged by their murders and decades of butchering of Blacks in Mississippi by White Supremacists, that one of his most controversial lyrics still stings us today:  “Mississippi Find Yourself Another Country To Be Part Of.”

 The unrelenting violent attacks against Black communities and children as young as the four, 14-year old Black girls blown to bits in the September, 1963, Sunday-school bombing at Birmingham, Alabama’s 16th Street Baptist church, coupled with the assassination of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi, pushed many performers—like Ochs and Nina Simone—to sharpen their music into tools for justice and Civil Rights.

Simone, an international sensation across several musical genres, born into a poor, North Carolina Black family, told PBS that her historic protest song “Mississippi, Goddamn,” simply “erupted” out of her in under an hour, in 1964.  Her lyrics quickly became a Civil Rights anthem, and many Southern States banned her and her music:

“Alabama’s gotten me so upset

Tennessee made me lose my rest

And Everybody knows about Mississippi, Goddamn.”

Simone told the Black Journal, “an artist’s duty is to reflect the times.  That to me is my duty.  And, at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate—when everyday is a matter of survival—I don’t think you can help but be involved.”

While Nina Simone came right at racists with everything she had, Ochs switched the narrative on the KKK, White Supremacists, and public officials who claimed that America could only be great as a White man’s country

 In fact, in Mississippi’s Secession Document of 1861, when it joined the Confederacy and declared war upon the United States Government, its’ governing beliefs were stated clearly: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.”  The Mississippi of the 1960’s, it seemed, was still stuck in a 100 year old time warp.

Among the fiercest fighters to save the Union, after their emancipation in 1863, were freed Black slaves.   They believed, with a religious fervor, that “all men were created equal,” and battled brilliantly to protect their right to live free in America, where their families were born, and their ancestors buried.  That was the kind of country they wanted.

So, Ochs expertly flipped the story, and sang about expelling the White Supremacists, whose acts of hate and racial murder were crimes against the US, and humanity.   The illegal, bloody, armed insurrection against the United States Government was crushed—at the cost of Americans killing Americans by the hundreds of thousands– and the Confederacy’s dream of an all-White country with an enslaved Black population was dumped on history’s trash heap.

The leaders of the first failed coup to overturn democracy in the US were only saved from execution for treason by blanket pardons granted by the Tennessee Segregationist Andrew Johnson.   Now, 100 years later, Phil Ochs was offering an alternative to the White Supremacists: You want to secede?  Go!  We want you out of this Democracy, which you tried to destroy.

Earlier this month, in March, 2023, multiple national news outlets reported the beheading and dismembering of Rasheem Carter, a 20-year old Black man in Mississippi, who went missing last year. When his brutalized body was found, the local Sheriff’s Department said that “no foul play” was involved in Carter’s death—sounding as callous about Black lives as Mississippi public officials of 60 years ago. If Phil Ochs, or Nina Simone, were writing their songs of outrage today, their words would spare no one.  This adaptation of “Here’s to the State of Mississippi,” has meaning well beyond one State’s borders:

Here’s to the state of racist child killers,

For underneath their faces, the devil draws no lines,

If you drag their muddy mem’ries, nameless bodies you will find.

Whoa, the corridors of power have hid a thousand crimes,

The calendar is lyin’ if it reads the present time.

Whoa, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

White Supremacists find another country to be part of.

And here’s to the mouthpieces of racist child killers,

Who say that folks with conscience, they just don’t understand,

As they tremble in the shadow of MAGA Nazis and the Klan.

The sweating of their souls can’t wash the blood from off their hands,

They smile and shrug their shoulders at the dying of a child;

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

White Supremacists find another country to be part of.

And here’s to the homes of racist child killers

Where they’re teaching all their children that they don’t have to care.

All the rudiments of hatred are present everywhere,

And every single family is a factory of despair;

There’s nobody learning such a foreign word as fair.

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

White Supremacists find another country to be part of.

And here’s to the Christian schools grooming Black child killers;

Their books don’t mention slavery, or race, or crimes of hate.

To rule the pure White world, was their Jesus-given fate.

The massacres of Wilmington and Greenwood, never did take place;

How could they if there’s no such thing as crimes against a race?

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

White Supremacists find another country to be part of.

And here’s to the apologists of all these racist killers;

Who cover up their hearts as they crawl into the courts,

They’re guarding all the bastions of their phony legal forts;

Oh, justice is a stranger if it’s non-whites who report,

When the Black man is accused, the trial is always short.

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

Mississippi, Goddamn, find another country to be part of.

And here’s to bogus governments of racist killers;

In the swamp that they created, they’re always bogging down,

And criminals are smirking as they hold Black babies down;

And they hope that no one sees the sights, and no one hears the sounds,

And the speeches of their leaders are the rants of evil clowns.

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

White Supremacists find another country to be part of.

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