“Maybe some of these other people don’t want to go to Martin Luther King school.” By “other people,” Rep. Mike Holmes — the person who hurled this incredibly racist nonsense at a Black lawmaker on Wednesday — meant white people. His response came after Rep. John Rogers said he wouldn’t want to go to a school named after Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate general who fought to keep Black Americans as slaves.
In the heat of the moment, Holmes said the quiet part — the part usually whispered just after a quick glance around to make sure no Blacks or libs are nearby — out loud.
Because this is who we still are, Alabama.
Look at it. Soak it in. Wallow in it.
For all the phony “look how far we’ve come” BS from so many people who want all the reward of progress without actually making progress, this is what we are: in the midst of a debate about a bill that would impose harsher fines on municipalities for moving Confederate monuments, the sponsor of that bill equated a Black preacher who only ever peacefully asked for equal rights for all men to the Confederates who fought to keep other humans as slaves.
Because a whole bunch of white people just can’t let it go. They can’t stand the idea of equality. They can’t tolerate the notion of Black citizens having an equal voice in government.
And nothing has proven that more than the uproar over Confederate monuments.
It is a reasonable request for a human on this planet to say I’d like to remove the monument honoring the men who beat, murdered, tortured, raped and enslaved my ancestors.
And truth be told, the overwhelming majority of the white people who pretend to be outraged by this request have no idea who these Confederate generals were. Hell, half of them think General Lee is the car from “The Dukes of Hazzard.” And it’s not like any of them are loading up the kids on a Saturday and taking them down to the Davis statue to learn some history.
This whole fight has always been about power. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s reminding Black people where they stand, and reminding them how much power they don’t have.
That’s why the majority of the statues were erected in the first place. Check the dates on those statues. They didn’t pop up in the 1800s. They came mostly during two periods — around the early 1900s and the 1950s-60s. The two eras when Blacks were fighting for equality and making progress.
In response, white people literally put up statues to honor the slave owners as a reminder of who held the power.
And that’s why there’s so much anger now.
People like Mike Holmes don’t care about Confederate monuments. They never have and never will. If they did, they would have happily signed onto a bill from Rep. Juandalyn Givan earlier this session that would have allowed cities and counties to move monuments to museums or other historical sites — places where they actually could be used for historical purposes.
But they fought Givan’s bill tooth and nail. Because they don’t want the monuments to be tucked away out of sight somewhere. They want them in high traffic areas, where Black citizens will see them. They want Black kids to sit inside buildings named for slave owners.
Because it’s about power. And losing those statues or watching those schools’ names be changed is a sign of lost power.
Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about the racism that continues to divide us, especially in this state. Several people emailed to tell me I was wrong, and they pointed out all of the progress since the 1960s.
And while, sure, we’re not lynching Black people in the streets or forcing them to drink from different water fountains, what we do have are schools more segregated than they were in the 1970s, voting restrictions that are more disenfranchising than the laws in 1966 and a mass incarceration of Black men that rivals anything on a plantation.
We also have a whole bunch of closet racists — men who hold all the same beliefs of white supremacy that were present in the Jim Crow days and before, but who don’t parade in white sheets. They practice their racism through carefully crafted legislation and backroom deals and under-the-table payoffs.
But every now and then, as it did during Wednesday’s committee hearing, the ugliness slips into public view, and we all get a good reminder of where we are. And how much work is left to be done.
Because as sad as it is to say, some of those people really don’t want to go to Martin Luther King Jr. School.