Racism is not a ‘card’ to be played, nor is it something that a person absolves themselves from by saying, “I’m not a racist!” Racism is determined by the act(s) of a person and one single act can reveal subconscious or hidden attitudes of a person or group of people who betray their desire to put other races down and keep them there.
Alabama doesn’t have a great record when it comes to racism. The State has a history of implementing laws to obstruct, intimidate, and harass minorities in order to retain the power of government in the hands of white men. When that was ruled illegal by higher authorities, white men used terrorism tactics to suppress and/or drive African-Americans out of Alabama. This was done with the blessing of the State government that enacted laws, and when necessary, involved the Governor and State Police to force minorities to comply.
The tactics were effective. African-Americans consisted of almost half (47.7%) of the population of Alabama in 1870. It declined until the 1970 census when the African-American population was down to almost one-quarter (26.2%.)
But all that is in the past. The racial violence of the 1960’s is all over and everything is better in the South. White men no longer have a need to target minorities with laws that harass and intimidate. Governors in Alabama do not support laws that target a certain race, nor enforce laws intended to obstruct, harass, nor intimidate them. Racism is not the way of the New South.
So, this past June, why did Alabama pass the toughest immigration law (House Bill 56 – 2011) in the country that targets Hispanics and anyone associated with them? Hispanics only consisted of 3.9% of the Alabama’s population in the 2010 census, which was up from 1.7% in the 2000 census. Could the new law that harasses and intimidates anyone who even looks Hispanic be a response to their population doubling in ten years?
The law was sponsored by 25 Republicans in the Alabama House of Representatives. All 58 Republicans in the House voted for the bill along with 9 Democrats. One Democrat voting for the bill, Representative Pebblin Warren told me that her vote was misreported and that she voted ‘Nay.’ Of the other eight Democrats who voted ‘Aye,’ five has since changed parties and are now Republicans. Those five are Representatives Alan C. Boothe, Lynn Greer, Steve Hurst, Mike Millican, and Lesley Vance. Below are pictures the 63 Republicans and the 3 Democrats who voted for HB – 56:
In the Alabama Senate, all but one Republican voted for the bill along with five Democrats. Below are the pictures of the 20 Republicans and 5 Democrats who voted in favor of the immigration reform bill:
If the ethnic background of the politicians behind this law seem to lack diversity, they do. The lone African-American who voted for the law, Senator Rodger Smitherman, is confusing because the month before the vote he was quoted as saying:
“We’re going back to some day we don’t want to see, where people can be pulled out of a car because they look like somebody,”
I contacted a member of his staff to determine if he intended to have his vote recorded in favor of HB – 56; however, he has not responded by the time this was published. Regardless, this bill that targeted one race was proposed and passed almost exclusively by white, conservative politicians.
The final player in this saga is Governor Robert Bentley.
It seems that ‘Happy Days’ of the Old South are back.
This article first published as
If You’re a Conservative in Alabama, You Just Might Be a Racist