One argument is that these outdated, illegal, racist words and phrases should be removed, expunged, so that nothing remains to remind us of our troubled past. Supporters claim that as long as the wording remains it will hurt the state’s efforts to bring in businesses, attract investments and even recruit outstanding black athletes (football being what it is in the state).
However, when this rewriting was tried almost a decade ago, a movement led by then-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore sent it down in defeat because the clause denying that children have “any right to education or training at public expense” was being removed.
That clause, inserted in the mid-1950s to serve notice that the state could shut schools rather than integrate, was just as racist as the rest. However, Moore argued that taking it out would open the door for federal courts to order the state to educate its children.
Moore’s argument convinced federal court-shy Alabamians to vote against the plan, so the racist language remained.
In this week’s election, Alabamians were again asked to vote to remove the language. The difference this time was that denying any responsibility to educate young folks was not removed.
This was apparently all right with Moore, who was re-elected as chief justice, because he did not speak out against it. Meanwhile, others, including this page, advised that the proposed revisions be passed and that the state Legislature should affirm the state’s educational responsibilities when it next convenes.
However, black political groups, the Alabama Education Association and others felt that if the amendment passed, reform would come to a halt and the state would continue to deny its responsibility for educating its children, so they opposed the plan.
And, once again, editing out racism went down to defeat.
Some people will say this is another example of racist Alabamians clinging to the past, no matter how unconstitutional it might be. But on closer inspection we find that the issue was not the racist language — Alabamians overwhelmingly favor getting that out.
Instead, the issue is the state’s responsibility for educating our children.
Alabamians sent a message to the Legislature that the clause denying that responsibility is just as racist, and just as wrong, as the parts the purgers wanted removed.
The Legislature should heed that message.