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An apology for white people

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

We know the truth, and we should feel worse about it.

I’m talking about white people in Alabama (and other states too, I presume). We like to pretend a lot that the wink-and-nod racism that’s a daily part of life in this State is surprising to us.

But it’s not. Or it shouldn’t be.

Because when things like a mayor of a north Alabama town writing a letter to the New Orleans’ mayor requesting that the recently-removed NOLA Confederate monuments be sent to Alabama, such ignorance shouldn’t be a surprise to us.

Because we live in the petri dish where that ignorance is cultivated and allowed to survive.

You know what I’m talking about.

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If you’re white and you’ve lived in Alabama for any significant period of time, you’ve found yourself in the white scrums, where the racism – after glancing around and lowering the voices – bubbles to the surface.

You’ve heard the racist comments and jokes. You’ve been privy to the unfiltered conversations about “the blacks.” You’ve listened to the ignorant concerns of ignorant people who make sweeping, ignorant generalizations that boil complicated societal issues down to simple skin color.

This is the reality. And it is not uncommon.

I guarantee you that almost every white person in this State has overheard or been part of a conversation with other white people in which an overtly racist idea – like a school being “overrun with blacks” or black players not being smart enough to play quarterback or black neighbors being up to no good – has been discussed.

And in most of those instances, the smart white people who know better never spoke up, never corrected the idiocy being spewed.

In fact, we’ve rarely taken any sort of a real stand against any of it. Either because we’re not brave enough or because we believe that such an astonishing level of ignorance couldn’t be corrected with a few minutes of sane, rational logic.

And that’s unfortunate. Because I fear that our complacency has allowed racism and intolerance and ignorance to continue.

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The evidence of this is in that letter – written by the mayor of Hanceville, Kenneth Nail – asking New Orleans if we could have monuments that that city had deemed too offensive, too hurtful for its people.

Maybe that decision was made because one of those monuments used to bear an inscription honoring white supremacy.

But no matter, Hanceville wants them all for (*wink*) historical purposes. To “remember the past,” Nail said to various media outlets.

Oh, the ignorance that we have allowed to go unchecked.

New Orleans knows its history, too. In the 1860s, when the Civil War began, over half the state of Louisiana was enslaved and couldn’t vote. That right wouldn’t be guaranteed there, or for the rest of the South, for another 100 years.

And it was in that sad reality that monuments honoring traitors to the country were erected.

New Orleans has finally come to realize that honoring such men might be offensive to the black Americans who reside there.

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Why wouldn’t it?

For a moment, let’s pretend that a man kidnapped your mother, took her to a faraway place, routinely raped her, forced her to work without pay or benefits of any sort, denied her an education, beat her often and then discarded her when she became too sick to do the work he wanted. Then, when the country attempted to stop that man, he chose to organize an army and fight against the country.

How would you feel about a monument to that man hanging out in your town square? Or dropping your kids off each morning at a school named for the man?

Such a thing could only be justified by a society of people who are too stupid to understand the hurt it might cause or so misguided by years of whitewashing, lies and justification that they don’t know any better. Or some combination of the two.

And that’s where the rest of us come in. Because for too long we’ve looked the other way on the jokes and innuendos and the outright racist nonsense.

We have allowed the most ignorant among us to have the loudest voices on the matter. It’s no wonder that so many believe that the South was fighting for something other than to enslave human beings. It’s no wonder that so many believe that statues honoring men who fought to enslave other humans somehow hold some educational significance, as if we might forget that the Civil War happened if black kids don’t have to attend a school named for a Confederate general.

It’s all so dumb.

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We never should have allowed it to go on this long, to linger like it has, to continue to hamstring the country, the state and our fellow black citizens.

Because we have, we still have dopes like Kenneth Nail trying to normalize a disgusting past.

And for that, we should all be sorry.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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