Pete Buttigieg Visits Historic Civil Rights Site, Gives Speech On 'Transportation Disparities'

By Javier Sanchez | Saturday, 22 June 2024 11:10 PM
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Image Credit : Photo by The Gray Gazette

In a recent visit to Mississippi, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg underscored the significance of transportation in achieving equity and justice in America, as reported by ABC News.

Buttigieg's tour included a visit to the former home of assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers, where he emphasized the far-reaching implications of transportation disparities.

"Disparities in access to transportation affect everything else — education, economic opportunity, quality of life, safety," Buttigieg stated, highlighting the profound impact of transportation on various aspects of life.

The Transportation Secretary's visit to Mississippi, his first, was aimed at promoting projects funded by the 2021 federal infrastructure act. Among these is a $20 million upgrade to Medgar Evers Boulevard in Jackson, a segment of U.S. Highway 49.

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During his visit, Buttigieg engaged in a conversation with Reena Evers-Everette, Evers' daughter. She shared her childhood memories of the modest one-story house her family moved into in 1956. This was the same home where her mother, Myrlie Evers, and her father, the Mississippi NAACP leader, discussed his efforts to register Black voters and challenge the state's strictly segregated society.

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Buttigieg's visit coincided with the anniversary of Evers' assassination on June 12, 1963, by a white supremacist, just hours after President John F. Kennedy delivered a televised speech about civil rights. The Transportation Secretary also acknowledged the 60th anniversary of the murder of three civil rights workers by Ku Klux Klansmen in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

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"As we bear the moral weight of our inheritance, it feels a little bit strange to be talking about street lights and ports and highway funding and some of the other day-to-day transportation needs that we are here to do something about," Buttigieg said. However, he emphasized that equitable transportation has always been "one of the most important battlegrounds of the struggle for racial and economic justice and civil rights in this country.”

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Buttigieg recalled Evers' call for a boycott of gas stations that denied Black customers access to their restrooms, and Rosa Parks' refusal to surrender her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who accompanied Buttigieg on his tour, lamented that the majority-Black city of Jackson has been "left out of so many funding opportunities" over the years, while funds for road expansion have been directed to wealthier suburbs. He described the $20 million as a "down payment" towards future funding.

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"This down payment will fix some of the problems associated with years of neglect — potholes, businesses that have closed because there's no traffic," Thompson said.

Thompson, the only Democrat representing Mississippi in Congress and the sole member of the state's U.S. House delegation who voted for the infrastructure bill, was joined by Buttigieg in acknowledging that Mississippi Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker also voted for the bill.

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