I am a “race-baiter.” I have “white guilt.” I’m a “n—– lover.” I’m a “traitor to my race.”
Over the course of my 20 years doing this job, and writing my opinions on the state of race and equality in Alabama, I’ve heard it all. I’ve been called it all, and I have the emails to back it up.
These are the names that come flying at you when you dare point out that Alabama’s track record on racial justice is for crap. Or that this state’s love for the confederate traitors to the country is insulting and hurtful to the state’s black citizens.
Because the majority of this state does not want to hear it.
And that’s exactly why things are on fire right now.
For generations, we have not wanted to hear about the injustices and inequality, not wanted to acknowledge them, not wanted to make amends for them. Hell, we’ve got quite a few people actively working to make sure they’re never undone.
Whenever there were nonviolent protests, they were belittled, shoved down and painted as anti-American. Many times, when black men and women expressed rightful outrage, their cries were met with silence, indifference or outright retribution.
What did you expect to happen?
Did you honestly believe that you could keep your knees on the necks of an entire race of people for multiple generations and never suffer the consequences? Did you think there would be no bill to pay for those injustices?
Did you think that you could continue with mass incarcerations, school segregation and social unfairness and that those disenfranchised people would simply take it and move on? That there would never be a boiling over of anger and despair?
Really, it is the audacity of white people that has caused this.
Before you roll your eyes, consider this: Right now, in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, there is not a single statue of Martin Luther King Jr., who led his first church in the city. At the same time, every single school day, at a school where over 90 percent of the students are black, kids stroll past a large statue of Robert E. Lee.
On the grounds of the state capitol, there is a large statue of Jefferson Davis. And another to J. Marion Sims, the doctor who used to experiment on slave women to save anesthesia.
Oh, and did I mention that Monday is Confederate Memorial Day in Alabama — a paid, state holiday for state workers?
You know what all of that says?
We don’t care.
We don’t care if this hurts you. We don’t care if it fosters an attitude of hate and intolerance. And we don’t care that we don’t care.
People have this misguided notion, it seems, that all of these protests and all of this anger is over the killing of George Floyd. That’s not it.
Sure, Floyd’s death touched off the protests. But really, they’re about much, much more than that. They’re about the daily, everyday injustices and frustrations and annoyances and wrongs that are allowed to happen to minorities in America.
Wrongs that we refuse to correct or that we dismiss.
The traffic stop for rolling through a stop sign that ends with a teenager face down and multiple cops’ guns pointed at him. The job interviews that never pan out. The promotions that never come. The home loan that doesn’t go through. The police abuse that goes unaddressed. The school suspensions for minor offenses.
This powder keg has been building for decades.
How can it possibly be a surprise to anyone?