This last week in the Alabama House Judiciary Committee, members considered HB8, a bill sponsored by Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D- Birmingham), which would essentially repeal the horrible and overreaching Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017. The legislation proposed by Givan would have allowed local communities to transfer ownership and custody of memorials or monuments to the Department of Archives or the Alabama Historical Commission without fear of financial or legal penalty.
Givan took the time to address Republican concerns about the monuments possibly getting destroyed (or, history getting somehow mysteriously lost due to their relocation) and developed the bill with the input of the Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
Surprise! Republicans lynched it in committee. They had, um, well, um, you know, issues with some of the, uh, language and, um, well, HISTORY- yeah, that’s it- removing those racist statues would be like taking a big ol’ container of White-Out and just dumping it all over history- without those racist and offensive statues and their inaccurate inscriptions glorifying an imaginary time that’s now gone with the wind, well, how in the world would our modern society know what happened in the Civil War?
Except, most of these monuments were erected after Reconstruction for one simple, hateful purpose.
The reason the original act specified the age of the monuments is that the memorials in question were all erected, not for the noble purpose of seriously studying history or educational edification, but as an outrageous, public, and humiliating way to further intimidate people of color. African Americans have an unquestionable right to be offended by these types of displays and they shouldn’t have to stare at a statue of, say, General Racist H. Slaveowner while they’re waiting to get a new car tag or taking their kids to the park.
Let’s be perfectly crystal clear here: The only monuments in question are CONFEDERATE monuments. You know, the big heroic and intimidating-looking statues of white guys on horses with funny hats and brandishing bayonets that you were forced to read about ad nauseam in History class. You know, the guys who decided it was worth almost destroying our entire nation so that they could own and exploit other human beings for their own profit and pleasure.
Yeah, those guys. The treasonous guys that were ultimately defeated by the United States of America after countless people lost their lives- again, for those sitting in the back of the committee room, it happened because they wanted to own and exploit other human beings, also known as BLACK PEOPLE, for their own profit and pleasure.
So, the Republican lynch mob of Reps. Wes Allen (R-Troy), Dickie Drake (R-Leeds), Allen Farley (R-McCalla), Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka), Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley), and Ben Robbins (R-Sylacauga) strung the bill up by its neck and murdered it for essentially no legitimate or plausible reason, but they all claimed that Givan’s bill would somehow be just like tearing the picture pages out of their beloved history books. Well, when that bogus argument burned like Atlanta, they then claimed it was what their constituents wanted- ya see, it’s all just a genteel misunderstanding because it’s really sorta a big ol’ city versus small town thing, right?
Anybody buying this?
Well, they all got pretty upset and their sensitive feelings got all hurt afterward when Givan pointed out the obvious, “We have racist members in the House of Representatives, especially in the Republican Party. This is a vote that shows the bigotry of members of the Alabama House of Representatives.”
Allen responded in a statement saying, “It is unfortunate that we have come to a point where anyone who disagrees is labeled as racist.” Um, except that’s not at all what’s happening here.
What exactly would you call someone who fights to make communities keep unwanted, divisive and intrinsically racist statues that glorify human slavery? Especially when they know without question how deeply offensive it is to black people.
Certainly, not a historian.
As Givan accurately observed, “Votes tell us who people really are.”
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.
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