Monday, June 1st, 2020
I am angry and I am hurt. Unfortunately, I am not shocked.
Inequality pervades every facet of our society. Confronting this truth is difficult, especially for those who have never experienced their race as an issue. For Black people, watching George Floyd be killed on camera felt not only horrifying, but familiar. It felt familiar because we know what it is like to be harassed by an officer or made to feel unwelcome in a certain part of town. We know what it is like for our schools, neighborhoods, and economic concerns to be ignored outright.
I stand with each person who is fighting for the just and fair treatment of every Alabamian. Until ideologies rooted in racism and hate are confronted head-on, communities of color will suffer. Until we expose the lies keeping us divided, communities who do not experience their race as an issue will continue misdirecting their frustrations, and scapegoat communities of color.
Telling the truth about Jefferson Davis is a great place to start.
Jefferson Davis, traitor and avowed racist, lived in Montgomery, Alabama for part of four months during 1861. Yet his ghost haunts our state—emboldening those who entrench white supremacy.
We are the only state that gives Davis his own holiday—an honor not even his own state of Mississippi bestows. Davis and his compatriots were wrong in 1861, and they are wrong now. We call for the immediate repeal of Alabama Code section 1-3-8(b)(4), which authorizes his holiday. That should begin a conversation about the unmistakable message our state sends its residents about the value of black Alabamians, but it is not the end.
Alabama has a decades-long tradition of non-violent direct action that tore down the Jim Crow laws and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. We are burdened to uphold the lessons we learned from the foot soldiers who shed their blood in Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, some of whom are still with us; the memories of Dr. King and Rev. Shuttlesworth; and the mantle of Rep. John Lewis.
As former President Obama said, "It falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station -- including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day -- to work together to create a 'new normal' in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts." So let’s change our laws and raise our standards. We must train law enforcement to de-escalate, because in a crisis we all sink to the level of our training. We need to reform our open records laws, so civilians can obtain police disciplinary records. And we need to reform qualified immunity and state-agent immunity in Alabama, which allow many police to act with no accountability and avoid a jury of their peers getting the final say.
I call on lawmakers to do what is right and empower municipalities to decide which historical figures are worthy of honor and which ones are not. I call on every Alabamian, especially people of faith, to be on the frontlines of love and compassion. And, when every election rolls around, all of us must show up and elect legislators, prosecutors, sheriffs, mayors, city councilors, and county commissioners who will take these specific steps to ensure all Alabamians can breathe free.
Where systemic racism endures there are no winners, only losers. Unity demands justice. We have not come this far to only come this far.