Thursday, November 18, 2004

Alabamans favor racist language in their constitution

That's a simplification of Russell Arben Fox's thoughtful post about the recent amendment vote in Alabama. Here's his summation of the news story that prompts his post:

This morning, I read John Brummett's column about the close but likely defeat of Amendment 2 in Alabama, a proposed amendment to the state constitution which would have repealed segregation-era language included in the document back in the 1950s. The strategy of Alabama politicians back then to avoid any potential interference with their racist educational system was to amend the constitution so that it included, besides poll taxes and mandated segregation, language which denied the right to an education at taxpayer expense for any Alabama child. Thanks to federal action, poll taxes and the doctrine of separate-but-equal was rendered moot; but the rejectionist language itself remains in the constitution, and has become a branch which many of those who reject a sense of obligation to the larger (and multiracial) social unit which Alabama in fact is continue to cling to. The push for Amendment 2 was led by Governor Bob Riley, who has bravely fought for a better Alabama before, and done so on explicitly Christian grounds. But once again, the Christian Coalition of Alabama and many of their Republican allies refused to budge on their opposition. Not that they necessarily still harbor segregationist sympathies; Amendment 2's opponents insisted that the racist language in their state constitution is meaningless, and that they would introduce legislation to strip them in particular anyway.

He goes on to give several other reasons why this amendment may have failed, but to me it boils down to tolerating racist language in the constitution.

It's depressing that Dems can't make inroads into this mindset, but it's fertile ground for dermagoguery with tinges (or more) of racism and bait-and-switch political argumentation.

I think Mr. Fox is way too easy on the cynical methods these folks employ. For instance, he says:
Many social and religious conservatives in the South and West have drawn themselves away from civic responsibility, shamefully allowing archaic and otherwise rejected political strategies to provide them with a way to hide from the inequality and need that education can provide at least a partial solution to.
I think those "archaic and otherwise rejected political strategies" are, sotto voce or not, bedrock tactics of Republicans, and they're a goodly part of the reason why Repubs won as much as they did recently. They're not a hiding place for their responsibility -- they believe that they are being responsible by acting this way (not so much about the racist undertones, but about much else of their policies).

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