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Opinion | Alabama lawmakers continue to embarrass state when it comes to issues of race

There was no irony in the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday evening.

Oh, several members of the House billed it as such, when the Republican-dominated body voted down an anti-racial profiling bill just moments after passing a resolution honoring Rosa Parks.

But that wasn’t irony.

It also wasn’t hypocrisy.

Because for either irony or hypocrisy to be present, there must be conflicting actions taken. And there was no conflict on Thursday.

It was just the same old sad inability to recognize unfairness and the inbred indifference to state-sponsored racial inequality.

Giving Rosa Parks a “day” did nothing to counterbalance the act of telling minority citizens that this state really doesn’t give a damn if they’re treated unfairly, denied their basic rights and made to feel inferior in this country that’s just as much theirs.

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I’m sorry to toss cold water on the celebration.

Oh, what a celebration it was, as the House members rose to give a standing ovation to … themselves.  

And for what?

For giving the most famous woman in this state’s history — a woman known and celebrated for her bravery and intelligence and tenacity and fearlessness all over the world — a “day” some 60-plus years after she refused to give up her seat and 12 years after her death.

Not a holiday, mind you.

Just a day.

Because you don’t want to get carried away with holidays, what with us already having state holidays honoring Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and confederate memorial day. So, let’s keep Rosa in her place.

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This is why there was no irony or hypocrisy on Thursday.

Because those things would have required state officials to at some point acknowledge through meaningful actions their recognition that this state has historically mistreated and oppressed minorities. Through the overt racism of the past 200 years all the way through to today, when we’re still trying to figure out how to keep schools segregated, deny minorities home loans, vilify Hispanics and keep legal police mistreatment of minorities.

Even on the simplest of acts — replacing the embarrassing and deplorable holidays devoted to traitors to this country with days honoring the brave men and women who fought good fights to ensure the rights of all people — our lawmakers got it wrong.

Martin Luther King Jr. shares a day with Robert E. Lee in Alabama. And Rosa can’t even get that much.

So, if our lawmakers couldn’t do right with something tiny, why would anyone expect anything different with something major?

And by “major,” I mean something really, really basic: mandating the collection of traffic stop data by all police and reporting that info to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. The AG would then be responsible for addressing cases of racial profiling.

How could it possibly be a problem to collect all of the data on every stop?

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Every single person who spoke against this bill on Thursday, most of them former cops, admitted right up front that racial profiling in Alabama is a problem. How big of a problem, no one knows … because we can’t collect the data.

But still, the bill failed.

Because a conservative politician in this state apparently can’t risk taking the side of a wronged minority citizen over that of a dirty cop.

Actually, let me take that back. Any conservative lawmaker could do that — could do the right thing and ensure equal protection under the law and by law enforcement. But that would mean possibly being voted out of office for doing the right thing. And we certainly don’t have any people brave enough to do that.

Maybe if we do at some point in the future, they can be so fortunate as to get a “day” honoring them as well.


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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