During last year’s federal investigation of an alleged vote-buying scheme, Beason helped the FBI by wearing a secret recording device. Parts of those 2010 recordings came to light last week during the ongoing corruption trial in Montgomery, much to Beason’s dismay.
In one conversation between Beason and two of his fellow Republican lawmakers, Beason called black customers of Greenetrack “aborigines.” More precisely, the three Republicans were discussing black voters’ participation in a proposed statewide referendum on gambling. It was suggested to Beason that black voters would be bought off with bus rides, a luxurious buffet and HUD money.
One lawmaker remarks, “That’s y’all’s Indians,” referring to patrons of the Greenetrack facility in west Alabama.
“They’re aborigines, but they’re not Indians,” said Beason in response.
This sort of racially tinged and ignorant language is offensive when overheard on the street corner. It’s far worse when voiced by members of the state Legislature.
It’s too simple, however, to suggest Beason could wipe away his poorly chosen words by resigning from his state Senate seat, though an apology would be in order. He clearly needs some time to reflect on his words and actions. If Beason can better reflect away from political office, then that’s all the better.
Lest we forget, this is not Beason’s first moment in the spotlight. He was one of the chief proponents of the recently enacted anti-immigrant law, which drips with meanness, racism and xenophobia. Earlier this year, Beason told a Republican audience the solution to illegal immigration was to “empty the clip,” a horribly inappropriate phrasing. He says his words were misconstrued.
The bigger picture envelopes not only Beason but his party. After all, Beason didn’t have his “aborigines” conversation by himself. He was joined by fellow Republicans. Beason’s Republican colleagues in the statehouse (along with some Democrats) pushed through Alabama’s harsh anti-immigration law. It’s his party that attracts less than 10 percent of the votes of black voters in Alabama. His party’s state chairman, Bill Armistead, says of the “aborigines” dustup, “I consider Sen. Scott Beason one of the most honorable people I know who serve in government.” Beason, in Armistead’s view, “does not have a racist bone in his body.”
Alabama has a long and ignoble tradition of know-nothing oafs masquerading as elected leaders. Through his words and actions, Beason is making a place for himself in the state’s hall of shame. It’s up to him to turn things around. If Beason won’t, he will squander his opportunity to resemble the responsible leaders within the state Republican Party.