BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Don't get side tracked by foolishness. That's the advice the very first black student at the University of Mississippi has for students in the wake of a racially charged campus demonstration. After Tuesday's election, a group of Ole Miss students protested by burning Obama campaign signs and yelling racial slurs.
James Meredith became the first black person to attend Ole Miss in 1962. The year before, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Meredith had a right to attend the school in Oxford. White students and segregation supporters protested his enrollment by rioting on campus, and the military, as well as other security, had to be brought in.
Meredith said he finds the recent Ole Miss protest troubling and confusing. After all the hardships he endured to help open the doors of education to everyone, he said he can't understand why any student would risk expulsion over foolishness.
"It cost a lot of money," said Meredith. "Most of the students, particularly the black students, have to borrow it to go to Ole Miss. I don't see how anybody can afford to let nonsense and foolishness deter their purpose."
These days Meredith's purpose is to try to rescue Mississippi's public school system. A chapter in his new book "A Mission From God" talks about why the system is broken.
"The actions that were taken by the powers that be in the 50s, 60s, 70s and in some cases up to the 80s were designed to keep the black in his place," Meredith said. "Actually what has happened after 40, 50 years is that there are actually more whites in Mississippi now that are impacted by the destruction of the public school system. It is a real crisis."
The 79-year-old has pledged to travel to all 82 counties encouraging churches and community members to take active role in educating children.
"My present mission from God is to get the people of Mississippi, especially the black people to do all that they can for themselves to improve their lives," said Meredith. "Government is not the answer, and all politicians are seeking to get government. God is my king. God is my president. God is my legislature. God is my everything. I am sure that government is not the answer. Only the people can solve the problems of our time."
Meredith said he was cursed every day he attended Ole Miss, but it didn't bother him one bit.
"My fight wasn't with the foolish. If I had a fight, it was with the leaders of the state of Mississippi. None of them were up there cussing me, so I didn't hear nothing nobody else was saying. "
Meredith graduated in 1963. As for current Ole Miss students, Meredith said his message is to get their priorities straight and get their education.
"I'm advising all of the students at Ole Miss white and black that the Bible says there will be wars and rumors of wars, so you know there is going to be bad talk," he said. "Anybody that let's themselves be side tracked by foolishness, it's not only something wrong with what they're mad about, it's something wrong with them."
James Meredith's signing was at Bay Books in Bay St. Louis.