A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – A city defined by its actions
Anniston’s 15 minutes of fame this week have left a scar. The city’s good name and the police department’s reputation have been momentarily, but not permanently, soiled. Today, if you Google “Anniston,” you won’t like what pops up.
You will find news reports linking the city to a hate group, potential for tension between black residents and the police department, and a City Hall portrayed as asleep at the wheel about two police lieutenants’ ties to a pro-secession organization.
In truth, Annistonians spent the last 48 hours watching City Hall react with remarkable speed and authority to Wednesday’s report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. It only took two days for Gurnee Avenue to digest the report that two officers were linked to the League of the South — a neo-confederate hate group, according to the SPLC — investigate those claims, review the options and announce its decision Friday afternoon.
Lt. Wayne Brown, whose involvement with the league was minimal, will retire.
Lt. Josh Doggrell, a long-time league member whose controversial 2013 speech to a LOS meeting remains on YouTube, is terminated.
Swift and decisive, though don’t be surprised if the courts offer the final word on City Manager Brian Johnson’s handling of the matter.
We chuckle at those who claim, with a straight face, that the LOS is an innocent “pro-South” group whose interest in a new Southern nation isn’t grounded in white superiority. If you’re unconvinced, check out the Twitter account of Michael Hill, the league’s leader. In May, he wrote this: “If American Negroes don’t like White Privilege, they should avoid it by going back to Mother Africa.”
That’s why this was a crisis for City Hall.
The Birmingham News – Why labeling the Charleston shooter’s views matters
“Some people want to call him a left wing, right wing, or no wing. He’s a murderer.”
That is a characterization I heard from a politician today of the home grown terrorist who slaughtered nine people in a church in Charleston. Murderer, sure, but there is so much emptiness and evasion in the rest of that sentence.
There is a temptation to disown this killer to the point that he would exist in his own box, with no connection to any brand of ideas. But there is a false comfort in failing to call a man what his own words and views make him out to be.
I don’t shrink from calling the mass murder in Charleston a product of hate warped ideological extremism, and I don’t run from saying that the killer was motivated by a dangerous worldview. The viewpoint is as half-baked and nonsensical as can be, but it is recognizable to the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a zone that exists in the dark reaches on the far right of American life. And this killer, while he acted alone, is not alone in his theories or his thoughts.
There is a false comfort in failing to call a man what his own words and views make him out to be.
I’ve heard it said this week that to locate this man on a political spectrum is to slander people who think of themselves as conservatives. Yes, it is too true that the short hand of partisan politics drives many liberals to call any conservative an extremist, but undeserved name calling does not excuse the fact that a far-out, extreme, militant, paranoid right exits. This far-right does not value limited government, it values a limited humanity. It does not seek freedom, it seeks oppression. It is not craving a heritage, it is reaching back to the most un-American features of our past. In its passion for an America that no longer exists, it would renounce much of what makes America great. That far right is almost certainly not you, average reader, but you ought to know it is real and scary.
The Decatur Daily – Hate crimes not confined to history
Possibly more acutely than the residents of most states, Alabamians can feel the horror of Wednesday’s shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
While the investigation continues, initial indications are that a young white man entered the church, sat at a pew for an hour, and then shot and killed nine black church members during a prayer meeting.
It was, police said, a hate crime. Photos of the prime suspect show him in a jacket bearing the flags of apartheid-era South Africa. Another photo shows him sitting on the hood of a car with a Confederate license plate. According to reports, a surviving witness quoted the shooter as saying, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
Alabama’s empathy for the horror felt by South Carolinians stems from our long history of hate crimes. As a state, we continue to struggle with the twisted, mercenary logic that justified slavery. We strain to understand a Civil War that was fought in part over the horrifying principle that a state has a right to decide whether to enslave human beings.
We read of the lynchings, tortures and rapes that occurred both prior to and during the Reconstruction Era.
And many of us remember the horrifying violence, much of it perpetrated by hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, that splintered Alabama during the civil rights era. Alabama’s identity remains inextricably and sadly tied to the bombing, in 1963 by the KKK, of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Four young black girls died in the blast, which injured many more.
The most tragic aspect of hate crimes in Alabama, as in South Carolina, is that they are not confined to history.
Data collected by the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center indicate hate crimes remain at historically high levels. The victims are most often black. The perpetrators are most often white.
Dothan Eagle – What’s in a name? Everything, perhaps
The city of Selma had been set to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge on Friday, but city officials decided to delay acknowledgement of the anniversary until the end of the month. It seems the festivities were planned for a day traditionally known as Juneteenth, the anniversary of the end of slavery, and officials didn’t want to seem insensitive.
Considering that the bridge, for many, stands as Ground Zero for the hard-won advancement of black Americans in the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge is best known as the site of the Bloody Sunday attacks on marchers engaged in a peaceful demonstration for voting rights on March 7, 1965. Ironically, the familiar structure is named for a 19th Century Alabama senator who also served as a leader in the Ku Klux Klan.
Just before the closing of the Alabama Legislature’s regular session earlier this month, state Sen. Hank Sanders sponsored a resolution to change the name to the Journey to Freedom Bridge, citing an online petition that drew more than 180,000 signatures.
The Senate approved the measure, but it died in the state House of Representatives, where one lawmaker noted that about 50 callers had expressed a desire to leave the name intact.
It’s a divisive issue unrestrained by racial or political lines. Many people in Selma and beyond believe that the name of the bridge and everything it stands for are important to the history of our state and our nation.
Whether the bridge should be renamed is a matter that won’t likely draw consensus anytime soon. However, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, one of our nation’s elder statesmen and one of the victims of the beatings on the bridge during the Bloody Sunday attacks, states an eloquent position that’s difficult to challenge:
“The Edmund Pettus name represents the truth of the American story.”
The Enterprise Ledger – OK ladies, you’ve got some cleaning up to do
Before the great ladies out there throw something at me, let me explain the headline…
Hope Solo makes it hard to cheer for the U.S. Women’s World Cup squad after members of the goalie’s family say she physically attacked her nephew and sister at their house.
Cher, who has had more facelifts than Mount Rushmore, needs to just have a surgeon wire her jaw shut.
Fredricka Whitfield took CNN to a new low (Piers Morgan is gone, right?) with some of the most idiotic comments ever uttered on television, then made perhaps the most lame apology since Martha Stewart.
Then we have Rachel Dolezal, who once sued Howard University for race discrimination, among other things, yet was forced to resign this week as head of the NAACP’s Spokane, Washington, chapter after it was discovered she had been masquerading as an African-American despite the fact that both of her parents are white.
Here’s hoping women have a better rest of the summer because some of them have had a bad run of late.
Charges of domestic violence were dismissed against Solo, but she then went on the talk show circuit and instead of talking about soccer she decided to blast her own kin. Guilty or not of domestic violence, she is definitely guilty of being unwise. Just shut up and play!
I don’t even know where to start with Cher. One writer said she could star in a female version of Dumb and Dumber and she wouldn’t even have to act. I just don’t think they could find anyone else to play that dumb with her. She tried to make a joke, but considering ISIS had just posted an online video of more beheadings, it may have been the worst ever: “What do you get when you put G. Bush, D. Cheney, D. Rumsfeld, C. Powell, R. Perle, C. Rice and P. Wolfowitz together? ISIS.” I could list more comments she’s made about Sarah Palin and others, but, like her name, there are just too many four-letter words involved.
Cher, meet Miss Whitfield, who said something I’m not even sure MSNBC would allow and that network allows idiotic statements daily. Whitfield, in discussing the shooting at the Dallas Police headquarters, called the gunman “courageous and brave.” That alone should have had her escorted out of CNN’s offices with a pink slip, but then she came back the following day with a terrible attempt at an apology, saying she “misspoke.”
TimesDaily – Around the state
Anniston Star on state learning from the budget troubles of Kansas:
Cast your eyes to the West, Gov. Robert Bentley and state legislators looking for a solution to Alabama’s $300 million budget deficit.
About 850 miles from Montgomery sits Topeka, the state capital of Kansas. It’s there this week that Republican lawmakers are coming to grips with the collapse of treasured ideologies. They, like many of their counterparts in Alabama and elsewhere, accept these mantras as tightly as religious dogma: Taxes should always be cut. Tax cuts are the surest way to stimulate economic growth. Smaller government is always better.
Beginning in 2011, Republican supermajorities in both houses of the Kansas Legislature and newly elected Republican Gov. Sam Brownback set about to shake things up with Reaganesque fervor. State income taxes were slashed, something Brownback called “a real-live experiment” in supply-side economics. The hope was that slashing rates on the highest earners would send a jolt through the state’s economy. It did not.
Brownback’s experiment destroyed huge parts of the laboratory that is Kansas state government. Revenues to the state treasury fell, leaving Topeka with a $406 million deficit for the 2016 budget. Alabamians should be familiar with what that sort of budget hole can do to a state’s ability to fund its prisons, its law-enforcers, Medicaid and other important functions of government.
So, Kansas lawmakers swallowed hard and voted this month to raise taxes. (They chose to do so by unwisely raising regressive taxes that hurt the poor, but that’s a subject for another day.)
Regardless of the taxes increased, the majority of Kansas Republican lawmakers broke a no-taxes pledge they made as candidates. It’s likely those politicians feared the blowback from Kansans unhappy over even deeper cuts to state services more than they were concerned by anti-tax advocates in Washington, D.C.
Alabama’s leadership faces a similar choice in the near future.
The Gadsden Times – Messing with the NWS
Are Alabamians cognizant of the weather? That’s about as obvious (and useless) a question as asking if a pig is pork.
Of course they are. This state has been pounded and paralyzed by too many tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and other events to think otherwise.
So when someone talks about messing with the National Weather Service, it’s inevitably going to cause concern and consternation here.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., proposes to do just that. Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, last week introduced the National Weather Service Improvement Act. It would require the NWS to shift from its current setup — 122 forecast offices scattered throughout the U.S. — to six regional forecast centers.
Those regional centers ideally would be paired with a university that has a meteorology department or another state or federal lab, and would serve as the primary forecast hubs. The 122 offices wouldn’t be closed and their radar and weather balloon operations would continue, but their primary role would be working with emergency management agencies and the media.
The bill calls for at least one warning coordination meteorologist at each regional office, who will have the lead role in forecasting, and specifically says that the consolidation must have no “degradation in service.”
Its supporters insist the change would modernize the NWS, making it more efficient and flexible. They say the money saved could be directed elsewhere to upgrade the agency’s technology and improve its forecasting capabilities.
The Huntsville Times – Wrestling with ‘truths’ in the wake of national tragedy
It’s been an intense week for much of the country. National tragedies like the shooting in Charleston monopolize our minds in the immediate aftermath of the attack. There’s an initial outpouring of unity and grief but then, as we are forced to reconsider many of our personal “truths,” there is an unfortunate tendency toward anger, defensiveness and division. Three guest columns this week provide insight into different generations of American history – unfortunately, the similarities are a bit too stark.
Kyle Campbell, the president of Alabama College Democrats, draws an apt comparison between the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the murders in Charleston. Like many, he points to the irony that “while the American and South Carolinian flags fly at half-mast in Columbia today, the confederate flag is flying at full mast.”
It raises the question, how can the South reconcile with two divergent, but important reminders of its past? In one very particular instance, Reps. John Lewis and Terri Sewell defend keeping the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, despite Pettus’ legacy as a Confederate general and a Klansman. They write, “we must tell our story fully rather than hide the chapters we wish did not exist for without adversity there can be no redemption.” But should that be applied universally to all representations of the Confederacy in modern culture? In fact, does the blind adherence to the Stars and Bars prevent South Carolina and Alabama from fully learning our story? Are we using it to hide additional chapters we wish did not exist?
Without adversity there can be no redemption.
One such chapter in Alabama’s history is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. From 1932 until 1972, scientists monitored the deadly progression of syphilis among 399 low-income African-American men who deliberately weren’t informed about or offered penicillin. Rather than save their lives, scientists chose to use them as lab rats. Eric J. Suba M.D., Director of Clinical Laboratories at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, finds a comparison in the last 90s when, the Federal Government was orchestrating cervical cancer death-rate measurements in India. Suba writes that “to date, at least 254 women in unscreened control groups have died from cervical cancer, merely to show that cervical screening — compared to no screening whatsoever — reduces cervical cancer death rate.”
In the wake of the vicious church shootings in Charleston, comparisons have appropriately been made to the 16th Baptist Church bombings.
In response to the 1963 terrorist attack which killed four little girls in Birmingham, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered a powerful, cathartic eulogy. Speaking to a crowd of more than 3,000 mourners – a crowd that was black and white – Dr. King reminded a mourning nation that “God has a way of wringing good out of evil.”
He voiced a hope that “They spilled blood of these innocent girls may cause the whole citizenry of Birmingham to transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future. Indeed this tragic event may cause the white South to come to terms with its conscience.”
In the aftermath of the murders in Birmingham, the March on Washington and the assassination of President Kennedy, the country did take transformative steps, ultimately culminating in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the nine souls lost in Charleston show us that we still have a long journey ahead of us.
Dr. King’s response to the murders of innocent congregants in Birmingham can offer similar hope and catharsis to a country in shock to the hate crime perpetrated in Charleston. CBS News created a moving tribute to the victims and community, setting images from Charleston to excerpts from Dr. King’s eulogy.
Montgomery Advertiser – A Father’s Day gift: The airing of grievances
For this Father’s Day, I wanted to write something nice for Dad.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, he deserves a few nice words on Father’s Day, if for no other reason than he suffered through years of coaching my awful Little League baseball teams.
Second, it’s cheap. And if anyone can appreciate cheap, it’s Dad.
That’s because my father is thrifty. And when I use the term “thrifty” in this case, it carries its Depression-era meaning.
For example, there is nothing in any refrigerator on this planet, regardless of expiration date, that my dad won’t crack open, sniff, shrug and then eat. I have actually heard him say of milk, as he’s drinking it, “that’s a little twangy.”
A few years ago, to the chagrin of my mother, Dad began announcing the charge for sweet tea when the bill came at a restaurant. “$1.89! For tea!”
But while tea and “the expiration date racket” – which is how he refers to the printing of expiration dates on food – bother him, nothing has consistently driven my father crazier than the way tipping has expanded. “Everyone wants a tip for doing their job!”
That pet peeve has been joined of late by the increasing number of stores trying to squeeze another dollar or two out of you at the checkout counter for one charitable cause or another. There’s a $1 for homeless pets, your spare change for literacy, rounding up for public service, buying a paper card for one disease or another. It’s endless.
Maybe it’s obvious, but I have slowly drifted to my father’s side on both causes – to the point that I would co-chair the committee to regulate them.
Opelika-Auburn News – Going green in Opelika
Ten months ago on this page, we encouraged the city of Opelika to “think green” and consider ways to expand recycling. We published this editorial after the city announced plans to scale back recycling services.
“Good recycling programs are hallmarks of a vibrant and a forward-thinking city,” we opined. “Many Opelika residents would like to see Opelika continue offering and even expanding recycling programs. (Auburn and many other cities even offer curbside recycling.)…”
Fortunately for residents, the city has announced an improved recycling program. We recently learned of the city’s plans to expand recycling – to the delight of many people.
New services planned by the end of this year include single-stream recycling and – yes — curbside collection.
“It is something we’ve been working on for quite a while,” Terry White, the city’s solid waste director, told us.
White explained that single-stream recycling makes it much easier to recycle because residents will no longer be required to separate materials before recycling. One single-stream site has already been placed at the Fire-EMS/Hazmat Office on 8th Avenue. White said items will be taken to a modern single-stream recycling facility in Columbus, Ga.
Curbside recycling should begin by this fall. The city is partnering with Keep Opelika Beautiful to offer curbside collection of single-stream recycling with 95-gallon carts. KOB has agreed to purchase 500 carts to help kick off the effort.
The city stated that for the program to be successful, a minimum of 1,000 customers must sign up for this every other week service at $10 per month. This service will also be offered to local businesses. More information about curbside recycling and the city’s recycling program can be found at opelika.org.
We commend Terry White, the city’s solid waste director, along with his staff and city officials for working to expand recycling, and make Opelika a more desirable place to live, work and enjoy.
The Tuscaloosa News – Rachel Dolezal’s lie is the problem, not her race
Comedian Redd Foxx was known to slip lines into his comedy routine and into the script of his television show, “Sanford and Son”, that made references to “passing.” He was talking about light-complected black people trying to pass themselves off as white.
Perhaps Foxx would savor the irony of Rachel Dolezal’s efforts to pass for black. And if we are to accept that Bruce Jenner can step into a phone booth and emerge as Caitlyn and that’s perfectly OK and fine, how can we not in some way believe that Dolezal can mentally conjure herself from Caucasian to black?
Who is to say that she isn’t? Racial definitions in this country aren’t always straightforward and clearly delineated.
Dolezal’s resignation as president of the Spokane, Wash., chapter of the NAACP was almost certainly due more to the fact that she lied about her race than because she turned out not to be of the race the organization says it represents. After all, as was said during Richard Nixon’s agonizingly drawn- out descent from power, “It’s the cover-up, not the crime.”
Despite the fact that people seemed to have lost sight of that during Bill Clinton’s administration, the c oncept still holds true today. However, there does seem to be some belief that the post should be held by a black person.
The NAACP apparently has no such requirement. The Associated Press quoted Don Harris, a white man who heads the Phoenix chapter of the NAACP. He seemed at a loss to understand why Dolezal felt it was necessary to pretend to be black.
With more than a century of working to improve opportunities for black people and protecting their rights, far be it from us to tell a venerable organization like the NAACP how to conduct its business. But, Dolezal is credited with rejuvenating Spokane’s chapter, and even her critics are complimentary of her work. And there is something to be said for a person with the passion for a cause and empathy that would make them want to change their race.