By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
It’s time for a lesson in reality.
Actually, that’s not accurate. This is a lesson in how reality becomes distorted. Usually, purposefully distorted in order to feed a convenient narrative.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange tried a little distorted reality last week, when he started criticizing everyone – and by ‘everyone,’ I mean the not-us-but-them sort of everyones – for crime issues in the city.
(While I will use Strange’s words, make no mistake, these comments and attitudes are not limited to him. They can be found in most every city in this country, especially around the South, and they are directly responsible for the rise in stupidity and hate and the reduction of decency.)
At his press conference, Strange was angry over the shooting of a kid at a gas station – an awful crime that deserves anger – and the death of another child from alleged illegal drug use. The victims, and most of the people involved in these incidents, were black.
And so, the press conference became an opportunity to do a little victim-blaming, while at the same time Strange complained that “everyone” – don’t worry, not you, white people – wasn’t doing enough to help him and the cops keep peace in the city.
The managers of the gas station didn’t call the cops before the shooting. Parents didn’t know where their kids were at midnight … on a Sunday night before a holiday Monday. And the dadgum media just keeps on reporting high crime stats that are untrue … unless you base the reporting on actual crime stats, and then they’re completely accurate.
Allow me to translate this.
Black people aren’t helping the cops. Black people aren’t raising their children properly. All of this accurate reporting of crime – despite the police department’s best efforts to cover up crime by failing to write official reports at numerous crime scenes – is costing white people a lot of money.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Todd Strange, and I don’t for a second think he’s a racist.
I think he’s like a lot of people – incapable of drawing a direct line from the white sins of the past to the black problems of today.
But since I know that using race really turns some people away, let me say that differently: the majority group of Americans in the past did a lot of bad things that produced widespread and dominant poverty among other very specific groups, and that severe poverty continues to cause numerous issues.
Were you aware that the crime rates among those living below the poverty line in America is virtually equal for all races? In fact, white people living in poverty face higher rates of crime in most instances than either blacks or Hispanics.
So, really, it’s poverty that dictates crime. And in Montgomery, and throughout the South, we’ve made sure that certain groups of Americans remained in poverty.
Look at the school system here. It’s more segregated today than BEFORE Brown v. Board of Education.
And Montgomery citizens make damn sure it stays that way, and that white kids have every advantage. A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Education caught the Montgomery system toying with the magnet schools’ demographics, making sure that it was close to a 50-50 split, despite the fact there were hundreds fewer white students qualifying.
Let’s also not pretend that the problems end with education.
This is a town that for years has preyed upon impoverished citizens. To the point that a judge was recently removed from the bench for locking up poor people who were unable to pay fines.
Maybe the reason people are hesitant to call the cops in those poor communities has less to do with their willingness to be decent citizens and more to do with their past experiences.
After all, there is a Montgomery Police Department officer awaiting trial for murder of an unarmed black man, and a couple of others were arrested a few years ago for shaking down Hispanic drivers.
The fear and contempt many in the impoverished communities have for the police and city officials probably wasn’t alleviated much by Strange’s decisions to keep the indicted cop on the MPD payroll or to re-employ the ousted judge.
But that’s how it goes here.
For decades, this city has lived with – and often taken great pride in – its segregation. It cheered the us-vs-them mentality of the police department. It boasted about its segregated private schools. It has been perfectly fine with certain areas of the city crumbling while others miraculously received special zoning, new pavement and amazing tax breaks.
Everything imaginable has been done to keep the impoverished of this city uneducated, unemployable and hopeless.
To now pretend that large groups of the American public have simply chosen to live in poverty, to fear police, to attend poor schools is the height of hypocrisy and callousness.
And until those in charge recognize the reality that those past sins have brought, for Montgomery, for Alabama and for the rest of America, there is no path forward.