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Rep. Alan Harper: Don’t Do Business With Brown People

Baron Coleman

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By Baron Coleman
Opinion

Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama, Mr. Patel. You’re not from around here, are you? Let me introduce you to your state representative, Alan Harper (R-Northport).

Rep. Harper has a simple message on his Facebook page for the Christmas season: Don’t do business with brown people.

He’s talking about you, Mr. Patel. In case you haven’t looked in a mirror lately, your skin is darker than his. And the vestiges of your native language shape your English. Oh, and you use your money to destroy America. Should I have led with that part?

Rep. Harper doesn’t want Alabamians to do business with brown people who own convenience stores because the “stores are owned by folk that send their profits back to their homeland and then in turn use these funds against our country to create turmoil, fear and in some cases death and destruction.”

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(Yes, Mr. Patel, his grammar is far worse than yours. And he was born here!)

That quote came from his Facebook post. If he had any decency or shame, he would have deleted it and apologized. But as of the deadline for this submission, he still has it proudly displayed.

He even defended it in the comments.

One person wanted to know how to tell whether you were a good American or a foreigner out to destroy America. Rep. Harper’s advice: “Look behind the cash register. Most are owner/operators.” Unless you’re wearing a ball cap that says, “Death to America,” it’s safe to assume he’s talking about your brown skin. After all, he didn’t say to “ask,” but to “look.” We both know what he’s telling people to look for.

Yes, Mr. Patel, we’re aware Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are minorities and the sons of immigrants, as well as statewide-elected Republicans who ran for president this year.

In fact, Bobby Jindal looks quite a lot like you. He was conceived in India, the ancestral home of his parents. It’s a good thing his parents didn’t own a gas station in Rep. Harper’s district, isn’t it? Rep. Harper would have encouraged their neighbors to boycott their store. Who knows where Bobby Jindal would be today.

Mr. Patel, I don’t blame Rep. Harper for his ridiculously horrific comments. He’s a simpleton. He’s not very bright.

Until a couple years ago, Rep. Harper was a Democrat. Now, he claims to be a Republican. The truth is he’s an opportunist, not a man of principle, so we can’t blame his comments on belonging to one party or the other.

Under penalty of perjury, he listed a home address outside of his legislative district on his 2013 Statement of Economic Interests, a document required by all candidates and public officials. He later told the Alabama Republican Party he actually lived inside his district, but in a house his mortgage explicitly stated he couldn’t occupy as his primary residence because it was in a restricted zone.

In his 2014 Statement of Economic Interest, also under perjury, he claimed he lived at an address inside his legislative district. However, the tax record for that address states Rep. Harper doesn’t claim the homestead exemption for the house. If Rep. Harper lives in the house and doesn’t claim the homestead exemption, he’s a mighty charitable man to pay double the required taxes for the house. If he claims he lives there on his Statement of Economic Interests and actually uses the house as a rental property, then he’s again potentially perjuring himself.

Mr. Patel, there could be a perfectly reasonable and legal explanation for all of Rep. Harper’s various filings. In my opinion, it looks fishy, and some might suggest that possible perjury or bank fraud is worse than having brown skin.

And isn’t that what this is really all about, Mr. Patel? Rep. Harper can do and say what he wants because he thinks he’s special. District 61 elected him as a public official, regardless of whether he actually lives there. And in Alabama, public officials largely can speak and act with impunity and without accountability.

Mr. Patel, Rep. Harper won’t face any repercussions for what he said about you. I mean, no one cares whether he broke campaign laws, perjured himself, or committed bank fraud. He may be innocent of all three, but there’s certainly enough there to justify a few phone calls. But he knows that’s not likely.

To give you an example of how absurdly right I am about the privilege elected officials appreciate in Alabama, Rep. Harper and his colleagues elected as Speaker of the House a man who is under indictment for 23 separate felonies. That’s an average of one felony every eight weeks in the time period covered by the indictment.

Rep. Harper voted for that man, the probable felon, to be Speaker. But Rep. Harper doesn’t want people to do business with you. 

You see, Mr. Patel, you can be a suspected felon. You can be a suspected perjurer. You can possibly commit bank fraud. But, Mr. Patel, you can’t have brown skin or talk with a funny accent. For Rep. Harper, that’s just too far.

Mr. Patel, as an Alabamian and a conservative Republican, I want you to know Rep. Harper doesn’t speak for me. I hope more Alabamians and Republicans denounce Rep. Harper and condemn his words. But I’m not optimistic it will happen.

Mr. Patel, once again, welcome to Sweet Home Alabama.

Baron Coleman is an attorney, political consultant, and host of the daily radio show News and Views from Nine to Noon on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Pro-Life Movement momentum is strong

Martha Roby

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As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have the privilege each year to advocate for the priorities most important to the people who live and work in Alabama’s Second District.  Among many other key issues, I have been proud to stand up and fight for a strong military and smart agriculture policy on this committee. On the reverse, I am also in a strong position fight against funding from being steered towards programs or organizations that I adamantly oppose. Recently when the Appropriations Committee approved our Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill, I had the opportunity to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves: the unborn.

As a member of the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, I am extremely proud to report that our bill passed by the full Committee includes the strong pro-life language I have fought for year after year and implements additional policy riders to defend life. Every single one of these measures is critically important and further ensures that no taxpayer dollars can be used for abortions.

Among the key pro-life provisions included in the Labor-HHS FY19 funding bill are the Hyde Amendment, which directs that no taxpayer dollars be used to fund abortions, and the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bans Labor-HHS funding from being used on research that harms human embryos.

In addition to these longstanding pro-life measures, our bill also includes several other important pro-life provisions that continue our efforts to assign greater protections for life under the law. These measures include the Conscience Science Protection Act, which protects the rights of health care providers that do not participate in abortion.

In addition, the bill includes language that prohibits funding for fetal tissue research obtained from abortion. This measure might sound familiar because it is a direct response to the 2015 scandal that revealed how Planned Parenthood officials were systematically altering abortion procedures to preserve babies’ organs in order to sell them to researchers for profit. Planned Parenthood’s action was sick, callous, and completely inhuman.

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Finally, the bill includes language to prohibit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving any available funding, including through Title X family grants. This measure works hand-in-hand with the Trump Administration’s “Protect Life” rule, which also directs that Planned Parenthood is not eligible to receive Title X grant money. As I have said many, many times: Abortion is not family planning. Abortion is not health care. Organizations that offer these services should not receive taxpayer dollars that are intended for family planning.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have remained unapologetically pro-life. I believe life begins at conception, and our laws and policies should reflect a strong commitment to defending life at every stage. I have considered it a great privilege to have a platform with which I can serve as a voice for the voiceless.

After eight long years of coming up short pro-life victories, I am encouraged that we now have a President who supports our efforts and is willing to sign important measures into law. The pro-life movement’s momentum is strong, and I look forward to seeing it grow as we continue to impact meaningful change on behalf of the unborn. I am eager to support our Labor-HHS funding bill when it comes before the full House for a vote.

 Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Gerald Dial is a steady hand for Alabama

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Alabama’s economy is growing…but it can do so much more. The key is having the right leadership in all elected positions, people who have vision.

So far, Governor Kay Ivey has shown she has what it takes to make important changes and place our state in a position to win.

Did you know agriculture and forestry together are the biggest industry in Alabama? They contribute $70 billion each year toward the economy. Nearly 9 million acres and 600,000 Alabamians are involved in this huge business that benefits us all.

I would know; I was Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries several years back. During that time, we put Alabama’s top asset at the forefront of economic development.

John McMillian, our current commissioner who is term-limited and running for Treasurer, has done a good job, and now Alabama is at another crossroads. We need the next Ag Commissioner to find new and more ways to grow our state.

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Gerald Dial is just that person. He and I served together in the State Senate, and his Christian values and new ideas are exactly what Alabama needs right now. The key to making government work for the people is to have someone who can’t be bought but also knows how government works. Gerald Dial fits the bill, and I trust him explicitly.

Just recently Gerald Dial created a solution to a massive problem in our state – the opioid crisis. This pandemic is killing thousands of our citizens each year. Instead of sitting back and think it isn’t his problem, Gerald Dial petitioned the drug manufacturer, Kaleo, of naoxolene, an injection that can save someone experiencing an opioid overdose. The delivery device is called EVZIO.

The result is 1,744 FREE doses of an overdose-reversing drug to Alabama’s volunteer rescue squads to combat the opioid crisis. That $4 million donation to our rural first responders equates to nearly 2,000 lives that will be saved.

I could go on and on about Gerald Dial because he’s such a wonderful friend and effective public servant, but what I want to ask you is to support Gerald Dial in the July 17th Republican Primary Runoff for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

The powerful special interest groups in Montgomery don’t want Gerald elected, because they are scared he won’t take marching order like their preferred candidate. I don’t know about you, but that’s all I need to know about Gerald Dial – the powerbrokers don’t want him, so I do!

Charles Bishop was a Republican member of the Alabama Senate. He represented District 5 from 2006 to 2010. The district covers portions of Winston, Walker, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties. He was elected as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries for the term 1999 to 2003. 

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Sez you, Nikki Haley

Kristina Scott

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While “experts” like the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley say it “is patently ridiculous for the U.N. to examine poverty in America,” Alabamians know that what’s actually ridiculous is the hundreds of thousands of Alabamians who live in poverty.

Haley’s comments came in reaction to United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip G. Alston’s examination of poverty in Alabama and a handful of other American states.

Alabama experts also failed to prioritize poverty and homelessness as a serious issue facing the state in the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama’s (PARCA’s) Alabama Priorities poll. Those experts are business leaders, civic leaders, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, political science professors, and political journalists.

In contrast, the Alabama voters PARCA surveyed ranked poverty and homelessness as the fifth most serious issue facing Alabama. Alabamians’ concerns about poverty cut across party affiliation, ideology, age, gender, education, and income.

In order to educate both experts and the general public, Alabama Possible releases a poverty data sheet each year. We recently released our 2018 Alabama Poverty Data Sheet in June, and it highlights poverty, economic security, educational attainment, and food security.

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There is good news to share: poverty is at its lowest rate since we started publishing the Alabama Poverty Data Sheet in 2010. Just over 800,000 Alabamians live below the poverty line, which is $24,257 for a family of four.

Those of us who are concerned about poverty can’t rest, however. Alabama is still the sixth poorest state in the U.S., and 17.2 percent of Alabamians live below the federal poverty line. Fifteen of Alabama’s 67 counties have a poverty rate higher than 25 percent. Eight counties have a poverty rate higher than 30 percent.

On top of high poverty rates, Alabama’s median household income is not keeping up with the nation’s. The typical Alabama household earned $46,309 in 2016, which is $11,308 less than the national median household income. That gap has grown by $1,547 over the past five years.

No wonder we are concerned about poverty and homelessness. It is getting harder and harder for Alabamians to afford the cost of living.

We also can’t overlook how our state’s complicated racial history impacts poverty and economic opportunity. All eight of the counties with poverty rates above 30 percent are majority African American, and Alabama’s median household income for African Americans is $21,165 less than that of white families.

Alabama policymakers have focused on workforce development with good reason. Alabama faces two great hurdles: not having enough good jobs that support a family and not having enough qualified workers for the jobs we do have. That’s why Alabama Possible supported the efforts of the Alabama Workforce Council in developing the Success Plus strategic plan.

Poverty is complex, and having an income is just part of the puzzle. What about hunger and food insecurity? Basic sanitation systems and clean water? Accessible, affordable mental and physical health care? The opportunity to vote?

Alabama doesn’t have a plan to address these matters. What can we do about it?

Here’s one idea: let’s make it abundantly clear to “experts” that they should be worried about what we think of them, rather than what they think of us.

Use the data sheet to start conversations at your house of worship, in civic clubs and with your colleagues to think about how to better serve low-income people and break down multigenerational barriers to prosperity. Talk about why the issue is important to you; maybe you grew up poor, or you teach in a low-income school and see how the grinding reality of poverty impacts your students.

Don’t forget that it is an election year, and there are plenty of opportunities to talk with candidates who want your vote. You can interact with them on social media, at candidate forums and even at the grocery store.  Ask them how they intend to address poverty and homelessness.

And if anyone tries to blame the poor for their economic circumstances, or make excuses for why Alabama is so poor, you can do what Alabamians have done for generations: say “sez you.”

Kristina is executive director of Alabama Possible, a statewide nonprofit organization that removes barriers to prosperity.

 

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Rep. Alan Harper: Don’t Do Business With Brown People

by Baron Coleman Read Time: 5 min
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