By Baron Coleman
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.”
(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.