Throwing Shade

Why the city of Biloxi should say ‘we’re sorry’ for deleted tweet

Justin Mitchell
Justin Mitchell

It was the tweet (and Facebook post) seen ‘round the nation.

And when I saw it pop up on my timeline, I closed my eyes and hoped I would see Olivia Pope speaking from an emergency meeting outside of Biloxi City Hall.

“It’s handled,” she would have told Biloxi city officials

In my opinion, she would have also told them to say two words: We’re sorry.

But that didn’t happen.

The city of Biloxi on Friday in Facebook and Twitter posts said non-emergency offices in the city would be closed Monday in observance of Great Americans Day, not the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday that is recognized in Mississippi and across the nation.

When the internet exploded with backlash and criticism, some of which includes language that’s not suitable for work, the city first Tweeted in defense of their post, saying it was a state-decided title to the holiday. They later realized that was incorrect.

The Biloxi City Council passed a resolution in 1985 to call the third Monday in January Great Americans day “to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as well as other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of this country.”

And somehow, this title change made more than 30 years ago made its way back into the spotlight in 2017.

It should have stayed in the past.

The city took steps to make things right: They deleted their Tweets and Facebook posts that mentioned Great Americans Day but only after they stood their ground for most of the night Friday until Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gillich made a statement saying he would ask the City Council to change the name to align with the federal holiday.

Biloxi is also holding a special meeting on Monday at 10 a.m. so the City Council can make that change. The city announced the meeting after the Sun Herald Editorial Board took a stand and asked them to meet sooner rather than later.

The city also posted a Q&A about Great Americans Day on their website.

But I’m still baffled as to why the city never apologized.

Bilxoi City Councilwoman Dixie Newman apologized on behalf of the city on her Facebook page, but Biloxi’s official Twitter and Facebook page never published an apology.

Is it too late to say sorry? No, it’s never too late.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy speaks for itself. He was a voice for black communities across the South who faced discrimination and sometimes violent retaliation because of the color of their skin.

And if people in Mississippi don’t think that it’s important, they’re wrong.

I had a friend say on Facebook the name of a “day off work” didn’t affect him.

And that’s problematic.

How can we progress as a community if we don’t stand behind every person in our community? How can we ever know what it feels like to have dark skin? We’ll never know how it feels to face discrimination because of our skin color. But King did. And his voice was heard by millions of people.

Moving forward, we should all remember King’s message of equality, peace and action.

And we should always call the third Monday in January Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. There shouldn’t have to be a meeting or spectacle to decide that.

This is an opinion piece written by Sun Herald producer and blogger Justin Mitchell.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @Journalism_J