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Opinion | Why it took so long for Tuberville to denounce white nationalists

As ridiculous as Tuberville’s various public declarations about white supremacy were, the truth is he wasn’t the first.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville speaking on the Senate floor.
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Denial and delusion are twin sisters in Alabama when it comes to race. Which explains why it took U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville so long to renounce his romance with white supremacists. 

At least publicly. Privately, I suspect he’s still down with all white things being supreme. That’s why it took him so long – roughly two months by my count – to correct himself. And had it not been for the pressure applied by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Tuberville’s Senate partner Katie Britt, he still might be dancing with the devil.

As ridiculous as Tuberville’s various public declarations about white supremacy were, the truth is he wasn’t the first. He was tapping into the stream of denial and delusions that has watered American culture for centuries.

Some who embrace white supremacy have mastered the art of not saying the quiet part out loud. But others, like Tuberville, still haven’t figured out that part. They treat racism and white supremacy like family heirlooms to be publicly preserved, protected and passed on.

So, they do. Still mouthing lies long discredited or easily disputed.

America was discovered. A lie.

“Manifest destiny” entitled the explorers and founders to push the indigenous people off their lands. Another lie.

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Slavery was a blessing because it “rescued” Black people from Africa’s uncivilized woes and introduced them to Christianity. A pack of lies.

White people built this country with ingenuity, superior culture, and intellect – not with free, coerced labor; rigged laws; violence, terror, land theft and murder. One hell of a lie.

Tuberville is just the most recent high profile American to promulgate the lies about white supremacy. It’s a grand tradition in this country, grander than what any Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan could conjure. 

And these days, social media and the Internet make it easy to distribute these lies to the masses. Tubbs and the boys don’t even need white sheets and a hood to do it.

Alexander Stephens, a founding father of the Confederacy, was an early pioneer. From his fallacious Cornerstone Speech: “Our new government is founded … upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

Former Alabama Gov. John Patterson joined the liars club when he responded to the horrific beating of Freedom Riders in Montgomery in May of 1961. 

“These so-called Freedom Riders were people who came from other states into Alabama, not on any legitimate business, not as visitors, not as people who were obeying the law, but as people who came here deliberately seeking a fight,” Patterson said. “But prior to the time that these people came to Alabama, Alabama was a peaceable state. Everybody was getting along well together here. We were working and cooperating together in a spirit of harmony and peace. But these people came into Alabama and from the very first day, did everything they could to provoke the citizens of this state.”

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So many lies. Just denial, delusion and lies.

Lie number one: The Freedom Riders were “people who came here deliberately seeking a fight.” 

No. The Freedom Riders were peacefully trying to integrate the transportation system. It was the racist Alabama thugs who attacked them who were seeking a fight.

Lie number two: “Prior to the time that these people came to Alabama, Alabama was a peaceable state. We were working and cooperating together in a spirit of harmony and peace.” 

What a whopper. In 1960s Alabama, Black people lived in terror. 

Black women knew they could be raped by a white man, and no justice would be served. Ask Recy Taylor’s family.

Black men knew they could be beaten or even murdered for even the slightest hint of so-called disrespect toward a white person. Ask Carl Ray’s family. 

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Patterson was a bald-faced liar. Just like Stephens was.

Just like Tuberville was – and undoubtedly still is, even if only behind closed doors. If he wasn’t a liar, he would have given us more than a cut-and-paste correction. He would have contritely admitted his wrong, explained why he was wrong, and pledged to make amends. 

Tuberville did none of that. Which makes me believe his correction was just another lie.

But at least he’s consistent. 

David Person is a media personality and consultant who has been working in the Huntsville market since 1986 as a talk show host, columnist, and director/producer. David co-hosts the podcast Alabama Politics This Week.

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