By Sen. Hank Sanders
I write you because we face an urgent and critical matter. It seems so good but is so bad. It seems like it is a step forward but it is a great leap backward. It seems like it lifts Alabama into the 21st Century but it really pulls Alabama back into 19th Century. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It seems so good but is so bad.
The “It” of which I speak is Constitutional Amendment 4 on the November General Election Ballot. Amendment 4 proposes to change the reactionary 1901 Alabama Constitution for the better. It seems so good but is so bad.
Amendment 4 proposes to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution that requires Black and White children to attend separate schools. That should make Amendment 4 a good thing. It seems so good but is so bad.
Amendment 4 also proposes to remove the racist poll tax language from the Alabama Constitution. The poll tax helped prevent most Black and poor people from voting. Voting is a right under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and no one should have to pay to exercise that right. The poll tax language in the Alabama Constitution is very bad and should be removed. Amendment 4 seems so good but is so bad.
I have mentioned Amendment 4 multiple times. This is how Amendment 4 reads on the General Election Ballot:
Proposing an amendment to the constitution of Alabama 1901 to repeal portions of Amendment 111, now appearing as Section 256 of the official recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama 1901, as amended, relating to separation of schools by race and to repeal section 259, amendment 90, and amendment 109, relating to the poll tax (proposed by Act 2011-353-03).
It seems so good but is so bad. The summary reveals a lot but it does not reveal this language: “Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense.” This is the heart of Amendment 4 but one cannot tell by the summary. This provision destroys the right to a public education. I acknowledge that some see the import of this provision differently but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Amendment 4 seems like a step forward but it is a giant leap backward to a time before the Civil War.
It seems so good but is so bad. Amendment 4 is a fraud on the people of Alabama. It proposes to remove racist provisions from the Alabama Constitution that have no real legal impact. The U.S. Supreme Court has already struck down the provisions reauiring separate schools for Black and White Children. In addition, the poll tax is now barred by federal statute. However, the provision limiting public education circumscribes the future of our children, our communities, our state. The proposed removal of racist language by Amendment 4 simply puts lip stick on the reactionary 1901 Alabama Constitution while sticking a dagger in the heart of education rights for our children. It seems so good but is so bad.
Public education is the chief foundation that most of us stand on to build a better life. Public education provides the only consistent opportunities for those at the bottom to rise and those left out to be included. Public education provides substance to opportunities denied by the separation of races provision. Public education helps us use wisely the very vote that the poll tax denied. A constitutional amendment ought not be about superficial changes. It ought to be clearly about substantive changes. Ironically this amendment is about both the superficial and substantive. However, what we see is superficial and good while what we don’t see is profound and bad. It seems so good but is so bad.
Amendment 4 seems so good but is so bad we must defeat it at whatever the costs. Amendment 4 seems like it is a step forward but it is such a leap backward that we must defeat it at whatever sacrifice. Amendment 4 seems like it lifts Alabama into the 21st Century but it really pulls Alabama so far back into the 19th Century that we are duty bound to bury it with an avalanche of “NO” votes on November 6.
I hope you will join me in helping others to know that this amendment which seems so good but is so bad. We must expose this wolf in sheep’s clothing. We must move Alabama forward, not backward.