Our state legislature will probably be debating apologizing for slavery today. The resolution is six pages long, and was introduced by Sen. Hank Sanders who says “an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past…”
Alabama was admitted to the union in 1819. The importation of slaves into the United States had been banned 11 years earlier. The Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States, was ratified in 1865. Alabama, as a state, supported slavery for 46 years. So Alabama is in no way responsible for “centuries” of injustices. And many Alabamian’s ancestors did not live in Alabama during the times of slavery, or like mine, (Gabriel M. Overstreet) actually fought for the North.
I am reminded of Frank Matthew’s recent appearance before the Birmingham City Council requesting an apology for slavery, when the city of Birmingham did not even exist prior to the end of slavery. Birmingham was founded in 1871.
I think what would be more meaningful would be for Birmingham, and Alabama, to pass a resolution apologizing for segregation. I think the effects of segregation have more of an effect on African Americans today than slavery does. In separate ways, they are both demeaning social institutions, but only segregation is still in place. People are still alive who felt the effects of segregation, and people are still alive who promoted it. In fact, some still do.
During my campaign for city council, I was criticized for promoting “racial mixing” after using a clip art picture on a flyer of a white kid and a black kid playing together on a see saw. I was told that children being forced to play together on playgrounds was a subtle way of promoting racial mixing and inter-racial marriage.
We still live in a segregated society, a lot of it self induced. For the most part, we segregate by race on Sunday mornings when we go to worship. Our schools are segregated, in part by white flight to private schools. Pubic transportation in Birmingham is segregated; Rosa Parks would never have to worry about where she sat because white people, for the most part, don’t ride buses in this city. Patricia Todd had to fight for her seat not because she is gay, but because she is white, and black leaders felt that the seat was "stolen" from them. Apparently they want to remain segragated.
I mean, if you can't elect a white person in a predominately black district, does that mean we can't elect a black president in a predominately white country? Sorry Barack, that's the way black leaders in Alabama want it.
Slavery is history, not to be forgotten, but not to be focused on either. Focus on the issues that affect us now and the lingering effects of segregation surely do just that. Focus on the disparities in education, in tax structures that unfairly affect the poor. Focus on the high cost of health care and how our system excludes many who are most vulnerable.
Focus on the pipeline to prison that exists in our socity today for young black men.
Focus on city leaders, both white and black, who do not believe that every citizen, whether black, or white, or Hispanic or young or old, gay or straight, able bodies or disabled, deserve equal treatment and respect, and who even in 2007, use the politics of division to keep the public suppressed.
Focus on media personalities and celebrities who resort to name calling (we seem to be doing that) to promote their careers.
Focus on treating your neighbor with respect, and respecting our differences.
I have to mention Artur Davis and his vist to Birmingham the other day. He was right on the money with most of his answers, but for a good discourse on his appearance visit The Human Animal at http://thehumananimal.blogspot.com/, one of my blog links.