There were lots of speeches in Montgomery on Monday. Speeches about freedom and life and liberty. Speeches about the future. Speeches about justice and a brighter future.
And seemingly every speaker who delivered those speeches – from Gov. Kay Ivey on down the list of warmup acts at Monday’s inauguration events – wanted to make sure that everyone knew they were speaking about ALL Alabamians. All.
Which I assume includes Black Alabamians. Actually, scratch that. I don’t “assume” that. I know it to be true, because I know a number of the people who gave those speeches, and I don’t believe any of them – disagree with them on many issues as I do – are racists.
They wouldn’t intentionally exclude or discriminate based on the color of someone’s skin. They would look you in the eye and tell you that they love all people. That they want equality and justice for all.
But too often, some of these people run into … we’ll call them racial inconveniences.
Little moments when doing the morally right things – tearing down confederate statues or sticking up for Black citizens being wronged by our justice system or deciding not to spew the anti-CRT talking points or choosing not to race-base gerrymander – aren’t politically advantageous. And in those moments, far too often, too many people have bent to the path of least resistance.
They cave to the white supremacy that has dominated this state for centuries now. Usually not in big ways. Just in small concessions here or there – concessions that leave Alabama perpetually lagging behind on matters of social justice.
Then, whenever you point out these issues and the underlying causes, great offense is taken by the suggestion that the people responsible for Alabama’s racial shortcomings are, in fact, responsible for Alabama’s racial shortcomings. Because they are not racists, they proclaim. Because they don’t want to be racists. They don’t want to be thought of as racists. Almost all of them truly believe that they are not racists.
And to be absolutely fair to them, they are not the same as the overt racists of the past. They don’t want Black citizens to drink from a different water fountain or be subjected to racial slurs. But at the same time, we’re not exactly on a speeding train heading for the racial utopia they claim to want for Alabama.
Because if that utopia were truly the goal – and Alabama has truly put its racist past, at least from a leadership perspective, behind it – then why were all of those speeches given on a day when Alabama has chosen to honor both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee?
Why does such a racist abomination still exist here?
Because that’s what it is – a racist abomination. There’s no other viable explanation, and don’t waste your typing to prove otherwise.
There is zero reason for Alabama to honor Lee. Zero.
He’s not from here, never spent any real time here and didn’t do a thing to benefit Alabama in any way.
So, then, why do we honor him? Even if you can overlook his documented racism and mistreatment of the humans he “owned,” the absolute best thing you can say about him is that he was above average at war. So were lots of people – lots of people far, far more deserving of the honor, and maybe even a few with ties to this state – and we don’t honor them.
So why this particular non-Alabama general? Why is he splitting a holiday with a Black national hero who gave his life for equality and justice and the actual promises of our forefathers?
You know why.
It’s racism. That’s why it started and that’s why it continues.
You can pretend otherwise if you like, but doing so is one of those racial inconveniences I spoke of earlier. The fact is there are only two reasons for not dispensing of this embarrassment: 1. You’re a racist, or 2. You covet the votes and good graces of racists.
There’s no third option.
So, what’s it going to be, Alabama politicians? Do you mean what you say? Do you actually want a future Alabama that’s fair for all, with equality and colorblind justice? Do you want to make sure that the rest of the country, including so many businesses looking to relocate, stops viewing Alabama as the same old racist state of old?
Let this be the first step. According to Rep. Chris England, legislation will again be submitted in the 2023 session to do away with this split holiday and stop honoring Lee.
Support it. Pass it unanimously. Leave no doubt.
Take the smallest of steps towards creating that fair Alabama you say you want.