History is important in Alabama. It’s really, really important to Alabama conservatives — they’ve told us so repeatedly over the last six or seven years.
History is so important to them, in fact, that they created and passed laws protecting “history” — the form manifested in large statues and school names and street names. They were so concerned about this state’s history and ensuring an accurate accounting of past events that they didn’t dare move even the statues honoring awful, slave-owning, slavery-protecting confederates.
Because “we can’t change or erase or tear down history,” Gov. Kay Ivey exclaimed in her very first re-election ad in 2018.
Hell, they love history so much here that a state representative in the last legislative session tried to pass a bill that would have made it a crime to even verbally disparage one of our great historical monuments. That’s how much Alabama conservatives love history and how much they want to preserve it.
With such a zeal for history and protecting the true stories — no matter how painful or plainly racist — Alabama should be ground zero for the teachings of critical race theory, which examines U.S. history through a lens that doesn’t conveniently omit racism and white supremacy.
No, the theory doesn’t teach white children that they’re inherently evil or that they must relinquish all of their possessions to non-white people in order to atone for their race’s past misdeeds.
It does, however, make it clear that the Native Americans weren’t exactly thrilled with the “discovery” of the “new world.” And that African slaves weren’t happy and singing songs of love to their owners. And that 100 years of Jim Crow made Black poverty rates less an issue of boot-strap pulling and more one of fairness and opportunity.
Essentially, CRT focuses less on individual acts of racism and examines the ways ingrained racism within America’s various social systems has served to shape the country and cause problems. And how that history was a predictor of what’s happening now.
Surely, such a complete and accurate history would be welcomed with open arms by Alabama Republicans, right?
Turns out — and hold onto your hat — no.
There is already a bill prefiled by some guy who really, really wants to get his name in print. It would ban the teaching of CRT and other “divisive issues.” During a radio interview, this unnamed lawmaker used all the appropriate buzz words to get white people riled up, and then threw in some insane lies about “reeducation camps” being forced on children who don’t agree that white people are inherently racist.
At a state board of education work session last week, CRT dominated discussion and led to state superintendent Eric Mackey introducing a resolution for the board on CRT, which stated that “America is not an inherently racist country, and that the state of Alabama is not an inherently racist state.”
And while that might make you feel good to say, shall we take a look at a few facts?
Facts like slavery. Then the Trail of Tears. Then the three-fifths compromise. Then the Civil War. Then Jim Crow. Then internment camps. Then separate but equal. Then mass incarcerations. Then wrongful convictions. Then white flight. Then busing. Then the need for affirmative action. Then integration. Then police reform.
You see what I’m saying here?
If we measured America, and especially Alabama, the same way we discuss alcoholism, well, we clearly had a huge problem, we tried to correct it ourselves for several years, relapsed a few times, got some help, we’re now working the program, a lot of us are trying really hard and some of us are still in denial. But, yeah, still racist.
Honestly, why does it bother white people so much to be presented with facts showing our ancestors helped wreck entire races of people because of ignorance, hatefulness, laziness and group-think?
I mean, sure, I wish they hadn’t acted so ignorantly. But isn’t there some level of pride in doing better than they did? Of treating people better? Of making the world a little more fair?
Just look at the history you’ve erased in an attempt to make yourselves feel better. Look at the absurd stories we were fed as kids about pilgrims and “Indians.” About slave life being really lovely, except for the beatings, rapes, murders, kidnappings and torture.
And about the portrayal of Black men as “dangerous animals.” On nothing more than a rumor, a Black man could be painted as a terrifying menace to society, hunted down like an actual animal and murdered in the town square as women and children watched and cheered. That portrayal spanned generations, and is still prevalent today.
It’s why predominantly Black neighborhoods are considered “dangerous,” despite crime rates in many of those neighborhoods being no higher than in nearby white neighborhoods. It’s why predominantly Black public schools are considered “dangerous,” despite no higher rates of disciplinary actions. And it helps explain why rates of incarceration are significantly higher within the Black community, and why police encounters involving Black men are often so unnecessarily violent and aggressive.
These are the sorts of issues that CRT addresses in an effort to help everyone gain a better understanding of the world we live in, and the world your fellow citizens live in.
Not so you’ll hate and fear each other. But so you won’t.