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Opinion | Rep. Givan has nothing to apologize for

Givan partially quoted the lyrics of a Jay-Z song as a sort of warning to Rep. Kenneth Paschal. She did not tell lies.

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham.
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Alabama Republicans finally found something they think is racist – a Black woman who calls out their racism. 

On Wednesday, Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, took to the mic on the House floor to address a bill from Rep. Kenneth Paschal, the only Black Republican in the Alabama Legislature. Givan also wanted to warn Paschal about the party he’s working with, and she chose a Jay-Z song to get her point across.   

The song was “The Story of O.J.” It uses the soft-a form of the N-word a number of times. Givan omitted the N-word in her comments, but she made clear what she meant. 

“Still one. Still one. Don’t matter how you come here, when you leave, you still one. When you sit down, you still one. When you get up, you still one. When you go to bed at night, you still one. When you look in the mirror at yourself, you still one. That’s the story of O.J. Light-skinned, dark-skinned, you still one. You’re going to always be one when you walk up in here, and every day you wake up. Don’t you ever forget that,” Givan said. 

Then she took her seat. 

What came next was essentially a bunch of white people wondering why she gets to say the N-word. 

That included ALGOP issuing a statement condemning Givan’s “racist” comments and actually having the gall to say that “there is no place for bigotry … in our local, state or federal government.” The statement, of course, included the only quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that Republicans know – the one about character and not skin color.  

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  As usual, though, despite this heaping helping of phony indignation, ALGOP was completely lost on an issue involving race and racism. 

Because, see, Givan didn’t quote the “The Story of O.J.” in order to call Paschal the N-word as an insult. She wasn’t insulting Paschal at all, in fact. The entire premise of the song is to remind Black people in America to stay aware of the inherent racism around them. 

And specifically, she was reminding Paschal of how he’s viewed by the party he’s representing. 

The party that likely had to take a break from writing up the next bill protecting monuments to slavery in order to churn out that press release. 

Givan was reminding Paschal of how the Alabama Republican Party has treated those who look like him. And warning him of what his future could hold. 

Was she wrong? 

I mean, sure, the ALGOP statement says that the party is “honored to represent people from across all racial and ethnic backgrounds.” 

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But … is that what you’ve been doing with those confederate monument bills? Or the gang bill? Or the bills banning teaching children about our racist past? Or the bills proclaiming that racism doesn’t exist in our governmental services? Or the bills that destroy educational opportunities for Black kids? 

Or how about when the most recognizable member of the party fired a Black department head because she allowed a resource book telling teachers to treat all students with dignity and consider biases? Or how about when ALGOP elected officials removed references to equity from teacher training? 

Or how about that bill making it a felony to help someone fill out an absentee ballot? I think we all know who that’s aimed at. 

Or how about the fact that these ALGOP-backed “school choice” bills don’t allow for students in predominantly Black, perpetually underfunded schools to transfer to predominantly white, perpetually well funded schools? Imagine that: the students in schools that we know for a fact need the most help and support, and somehow ALGOP figured out a way to hurt them more. 

Or how about that racist Alabama constitution that was designed to protect white supremacy? How about us still using that thing? Since 1901? 

The fact is ALGOP lawmakers have spent the better part of the last two decades figuring out ways to change laws, ignore rules and skirt ethics in order to give themselves and their friends every conceivable advantage known to man, while simultaneously lecturing all non-whites on how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. 

They have ignored obvious problems, turned their backs on Black colleagues when these controversial topics arise and rarely missed an opportunity to pander to racists whenever it was politically expedient. 

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All Givan did on Wednesday was remind a Black man of that history, and of that present. 

If what she said bothers you so much, do better.

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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