South Not Racist? Alabama votes to keep segregation

From what I remember from pre-election threads about this, as well, Alabama’s constitution is a mess, with hundreds of amendments. Apparently, Alabamians (or whatever you call 'em) tend to just vote against state constitutional amendments at this point, if only to try not to feed the thing anymore.

There’s a lot of rationalizing going on here. First of all, even if the anti-miscegenation vote was a landslide, I’m frankly disturbed that 40% would vote against it. If the vote was representative, then 4 ouf of every 10 people in Alabama approve of the idea of institutional racism. I seem to be one of the few people in this thread disturbed by this.

Second, about this vote, maybe this was really all about education taxes, and not about racism. Maybe so. Still, the majority thought it was better to keep segregation in the constitution rather than take a small chance that some taxes might be raised. I think in other places in the country the decision might go the other way.

Also, calling the South racist may not mean much literally. A region can’t be racist, but people can. And certainly not everyone there is racist. However, looking at trends does show that the South is different. First of all, while everywhere in the country was racist at some point, and even places like New York had horrible race riots, only in the South was racism institutionalized as slavery. Later, the second-KKK was first seen in the South, before spreading to other areas in the country. Recently, the 'Southern Strategy" of Republicans certainly was meant to take advantage of latent racism in the South. Recently, it has evolved beyond that, however.

What people are really saying, though, when they say “The South is racist” is that there are proportionally more racists in the south than in other parts of the country. Maybe that isn’t true anymore. However, given the trends of the South, I’d like to see some hard evidence of that, rather than opinions.

Even if that actually was the calculation that went through the mind of those opposing the amendment, that doesn’t mean that thinking that way is racist, though. Whether the language for seperate schools is in the state constitution or not, Alabama has integrated schools, and that’s not going to change. Removing the language doesn’t have any legal significance…nothing would have change in regards to segregation or integration if the amendment passed. So, there’s no “cost” to anyone in keeping the language as is. However, since the amendment removing the segregation language also includes changing another section of the constitution, passing the amendment does have a cost. And this isn’t “a small chance that some taxes might be raised”. This is an issue that’s being litigated right now, and has been for the past ten years.

The amendment as written was an attempt by the people who supported a change in the distribution of education funds to attach their agenda to the repeal of the segregation section. This lets them portray their opponents as racist.

Avumede, quite frankly, I think you’re full of it.

Sorry if I bristle, but down here, one gets really tired of the “South racist / North tolerant” mythology. (Did you know, for instance, that most slaves on the short-lived Underground Railroad fled south, not north?)

First, your notions about “trends in the South” are wrong-headed.

Slavery was not a uniquely Southern institution, although it died in the North long before the South. However, Northern politicians were often supportive enough of pro-slavery policies as long as they didn’t expand (witness the compromise which included the Fugitive Slave Act).

There were plenty of abolitionists in the South, and plenty of pro-slavers in the North. Emancipation was a largely unpopular idea up there, and Lincoln’s proclamation sparked protests and riots by those who would die to preserve the union, but not to “free the niggers”.

True, racism was often more explicit and codified in the South, even after the Union-Confederate War (it was not a civil war, as 2 distinct nations were involved), but that just makes Northern racism more “under the radar” and not necessarily any less intense.

Take a look at how civil rights marchers were treated in Chicago and other northern cities during our generation.

Look at violent flare-ups between Blacks and Jews in New York in recent years. Look at the attitudes still held about American Indians out West, and about Hispanics and Jews all over the country.

Look at the anti-immigrant groups active in the North (especially Eastern ports) at various times in our history. Look at how Asians were treated on the West Coast in the 19th century, and how the Irish, Germans, and Italians were treated on the central and northern eastern seaboard.

Your point that the second-KKK began in the South then spread nationally is no indication that the North is any less racist.

The Southern strategy in this last election had very little to do with racism. Racists would have no reason to believe that Bush or the GOP would make things more to their liking, and race-based issues are hard to come by anymore. It had much more to do with religion, abortion, distrust of “liberalism” and Yankee elitism, and lots of rhetoric on taxes, guns, and defense.

As for your demand that your assumptions about Southern racism be disproven rather than proven… nuff said.

Btw, I mention the UR not to suggest that slaves went south because things were less racist there than up North, but as an example of how assumptions springing from the false “South racist / North tolerant” paradigm come to influence what people see as fact.

Btw, the Knights Party (KKK) is now headquartered in Arkansas, the American Nazi Party is headquartered in Michigan, and the Aryan Nations are headquartered in Pennsylvania.

Cite? It just seems to me this is such a long grocery list. Why not toss racism onto the pile?

I look at Repubbies like Sonny Perdue, the governor in GA, who made it his platform to bring back the Confederate flag. And when he changed his mind about it post-election, you shoulda heard all the whining from his constituents.

These folks align with the Republican Party for a reason. Race matters ALL THE TIME in politics. You better believe it.

Cite? Both for the “short-lived” thing (I was always taught the age of the UGRR had spanned some decades…I don’t even know why you included that particular adjective anyway) and the thing about slaves escaping slavery by staying in the south.

An example of what happens when you try to stick everything into the Constitution, rather than risk having a later legislature or court reverse you. Looks to me like there we have a group of people that absolutely don’t trust their public officials to ever do anything right.

Look, it’s already been touched on in this thread why the default vote on ANY amendment in Alabama is “no”. 60% “yes” on anything is rather amazing. For instance, in this year’s election there was an amendment that allowed Wilcox County to change the way their Probate Judge was paid (IIRC). Voters in Wilcox approved this measure by a wide margin, but the amendment was defeated in the state-wide ballot. Why, you might ask. Is it because the people in the rest of Alabama give a rat’s ass about Wilcox’s Probate office? No, that’s not it. The measure was defeated because the default vote is always “no”. “NO” will remain the default vote until a new constitution is written.

(Bolding mine)

What sort of evidence do you suggest? Let’s say we both ask the first ten people we meet tomorrow if they’re racists, then report the results here tomorrow night. Oh, wait: It’s gonna’ be Good Guys 20 and Racists 0, or I miss my guess.

Note that when I say “hundreds of amendments” I mean 700+. Seriously.

And 248 sections to the main body of the document.

This ain’t your elegantly vague Founding Fathers Enlightenment manifesto, folks.

You want a cite for this? Obviously this is my opinion, based on what I saw going on down here, and not something subject to measurement. What in the world could I possibly cite, regardless of my take on the matter? (I didn’t think I’d have to point out something so apparent.)

Why not toss racism onto the pile? Because it’s a serious charge that should be backed up, not something you just toss in because it pleases you to do so.

Of course race matters, Dr. West. I never said it didn’t. What I did say is that racial issues are relatively few and far between these days, and that other issues such as religion, abortion, and the largely empty “liberal v. conservative” debate matter much more. If you care to check that out for yourself, just do a survey of the press coverage and party platforms in '04 and see what you come up with.

And btw, I did hear all the whining – I live here.

Racism is a problem in the South. It’s also a problem in the North and the West. And in Europe, Asia, Africa…

A good place to start is by looking up the work of Giles Wright on the subject. He notes:

As for the UR being “short-lived”, you are right and my memory was wrong about that. It lasted about 30 years. Thanks for the correction.

First of all, there certainly is a cost for having the amendment in, and that is the shame of having segregationist language in the constitution. I think different parts of the country may have given different weight to that shame… evidently Alabama didn’t give much, relative to the other concerns.

Sample_the_Dog, I presented several trends that show that there certainly was a difference in the South with regards to racism. You acknowledge that it institutionalized racism in a way that other parts of the country did not. However, the fact you bring up that other parts of the country were racist in different ways may only prove that I need to specify that I mean “anti-Black” racism. Do you believe the South really never was more racist (against blacks)? Or merely that it has lost that aspect recently? If so, how recently?

I am a gay white liberal born and reared in Alabama. While it is a die-hard conservative state with at least its share of idiots and zealots, there’s something I have to add about the miscegenation laws vote in 2000: The wording of that particular part of the ballot was extremely confusing, incorporating much legalese and far more words than necessary and you literally had to read the damned thing several times to figure out “Alright, do I vote yes or do I vote no if I do want it removed?” It is very possible that some people voted against their convictions strictly because they misread the piece.

Mixed marriages and biracial families are FAR from uncommon in Alabama; it is not at all unusual to see racially mixed couples in malls and other public locations, expressing PDA, etc., and it raises absolutely no eyebrows. I have in fact known two racially mixed couples in Alabama, both of them military and well travelled, who stated they received significantly more acceptance by both the white and black communities in Alabama than they received when they lived in other parts of the country (including NYC in one case).

Yeah, but the debate over school funding is a major state issue, which affects the daily lives of the people of Alabama today. Having segregationist language in the constitution, while embarrassing and a reminder of an earlier, worse time, doesn’t really affect anyone today.

I agree with you that removing racist or archaic provisions from the Constitution is a good thing to do, but it’s not the only issue, and there were probably a lot of people who voted against the amendment who might not have if the segregation part of the amendment was their on its own. If somebody, for example, proposed an amendment that said that the segregation language would be removed and also that the governor, from now on, would be elected for life, would you say that voting against that amendment makes you neccesarily a racist?

Yale decided to come clean about the slave-owning namesakes of their residential colleges. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was particularly loathsome. Even as late as the 1960’s (if I read correctly), they were naming buildings after these guys. This is just one example.

Doesn’t anyone remember the race riots in Detroit? Boston? Did they remove that from your history books so soon?

I know of at least one Northern state that abolished slavery after the Southern state that I live in did. (Delaware after Tennessee)

If others would be as straight-forward, may the Northerners would realize that they are not without blame. This does not excuse the racism that has existed and still exists in the South. But the notion that things aren’t better or that everyone is still racist in the South is just not right.

Monstro, gal pal, I even disagree with you about elections. But I’m not as sure as I would like to be.

Since you are using the spelling variation of capitalize that is not standard to the U.S., it is possible that we are from countries with different conventions. Even within style, there are matters of convention. In the United States, regions of the country and the people who live in those regions are capitalized, but directions usually aren’t. (Webster’s, Harbrace)