Last weekend should have been a shining moment for the state of Alabama, a celebration of the life and efforts of Congressman John Lewis – a true freedom fighter and hero for civil rights and equality in our nation.
It was also an opportunity to reflect on our past and be proud of how far we Alabamians have come. Republicans and Democrats, blacks and whites – all came together to honor and remember the life of Alabama’s courageous and remarkable son.
Well, not all, apparently.
What possible reason could a public official have to attend a 199th birthday party for the founder of the Ku Klux Klan while you’re in the same city as the funeral procession of a venerated civil rights hero who was literally beaten by that same Klan?
It almost seems absurd that we should have to have these conversations here in 2020, but here we are.
It is especially disconcerting to see behavior like this coming from someone so young. Perhaps one could expect this sort of thing from a grandparent or great-grandparent, as they were products of an era that may still hold those problematic, antiquated views – but from a 30-year-old, someone who should exemplify how far we have come as a state? It is worrying to say the least.
To lack the basic knowledge of history to know that the 199 year old birthday boy at your party was the founder of the KKK seems incongruent with the career of this young House member, who continues to claim to be a student of Confederate history. Perhaps it’s willful ignorance – it’s tough to tell.
For all the progress our state has made in moving forward from our history of racial divisiveness and strife, incidents like the one involving this young State Representative are an important lesson that while it is important for us to remember our past, our priority must be our continued journey to the better, brighter future that awaits us all and that, thanks to Will Dismukes, that journey is clearly not over yet.
Representative Dismukes has, however, shone a bright light for those of us that thought racism was something we could put behind us. In the words of Congressman John Lewis from our own Edmund Pettus Bridge, “We must use this moment to recommit ourselves to do all we can to finish the work. There’s still work left to be done.”
Sen. Chris Elliott represents Baldwin County in the Alabama State Senate and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee.