Alabama’s fear problem

September 20, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

The first step in correcting a problem is recognizing that you have one.

And it’s time we did that, Alabama.

Because we have a big one.

We’re the most intolerant people in the country. And I mean that as the collective “we,” because I’d love to not be included in this broad grouping. But I am.

I live here, have lived here for my entire life. My family is here. My home is here.

But whatever modest efforts I’ve put forth to correct our most serious problem have fallen flat. Because it still exists.

We still hate anyone who is a little different from us.

Spare me the sanctimonious outrage over my saying this, because you know it’s true. I have proof it’s true.

Part of that proof is the GOP race for U.S. Senate.

It’s being led by Roy Moore, a guy so serious about denying gay people equal rights that he got himself booted from the Supreme Court – again.

He’s leading Luther Strange, who can’t say the words “illegal immigrant,” “wall” and “Trump” enough, as he vilifies immigrant workers for his own selfish political gain.

These are the two top choices from the party that controls this state’s government. That fact – that the GOP runs Alabama – is sad in its own right, given that it has achieved the rare trifecta of having the state’s House Speaker, Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice be removed from office for various misdeeds.

But then, that plays right into the problem we all live with here.

The GOP is the anti-diversity party. And we don’t like diversity in Alabama.

Don’t believe me?

Last week, Facebook accounts of people from in and around Montgomery were active with people discussing a demographics chart for Montgomery Public Schools. The chart was simple: It showed the student population at each Montgomery school and then broke the numbers down by race.

The cold, hard numbers were staggering.

In a city where nearly half of the citizens are white, less than 10 percent of the nearly 30,000 kids enrolled in MPS are white.

Here’s what that means at some schools.

At Sidney Lanier High School, there are 1,003 students.

There is one white student.

One!

McKee Middle School has nearly 800 students. And one white kid. Bellingrath Middle has nearly 500 and doesn’t have a single white kid.

G.W. Carver High has 1,100 students. Of those, 1,038 are black, 21 are white.

The white people in Montgomery will tell you that they don’t send their kids to public schools in this system because it’s awful. That’s not really true.

They left public schools, originally, in the 1950s and 1960s, which is when the majority of the city’s private schools were built, to escape desegregation. And ever since they’ve made every excuse in the book to stay away.

A couple of years ago, the state switched testing methods for public schools. And right there in black and white, we all learned that MPS – with 20-percent of its top students funneled into magnet schools and absurd levels of poverty throughout the district – was roughly keeping pace with the surrounding communities.

But it didn’t matter. Places like Marbury are still growing rapidly, because of “schools.” (And you can consider those air quotes.)

Because this is what we do here: we run from different.

That’s why we’ve been forced by the federal government throughout this state’s history to treat people with dignity and respect and to grant equal rights to even those who think and look a little differently.

In the last six years alone, federal courts have stopped us from mistreating Hispanic workers and from denying rights to gay citizens.

And yet, here we are, trying to elect two Neanderthals who continue to embrace that hatred, that old-style Alabama.

Will it ever be enough?

Will we ever realize what our hate has and continues to cost us?

Because there’s evidence of that in Montgomery, too. Those aforementioned magnet schools in MPS are some of the best schools in the country. They also happen to be the most diverse in the city, splitting along a nearly 50/50 line, and there is a significant number of students on free and reduced lunch.

There isn’t a parent or teacher or former student or anyone else affiliated with those schools who believe the diversity they experience doesn’t better prepare all of the students for life in a diverse world. And every day, because of that diversity, ignorant stereotypes and racism die off.

Because you don’t fear what you know.

And I’m tired of living among a bunch of cowards.

© Copyright 2017 Alabama Political Reporter