Revolution #237, June 26, 2011
Alabama: Where have we seen this before?
From a reader
A child is turned away at a schoolhouse door, by racist laws and demagogic politicians who declare her less than human...
A family is told they can’t rent a house because “you don’t have papers”… meaning you are not the “right” race or color...
An elderly man dies of a heart attack on the street, because the law bans bringing people of “the wrong color” to a hospital...
A whole people, driven to America by the workings of an oppressive system, are locked down in the dirtiest, most dangerous, worst paying jobs, demonized as a dangerous threat... and taken away by the sheriff or armed vigilantes if they complain...
Up until the 1960s, segregation—the separation of people on the basis of race, was the law in Alabama. Black children were denied admission to “whites only” schools. Blacks were turned away at hospitals—in many cases resulting in unnecessary death. In the period after slavery ended, Alabama’s notorious Black Code rigidly controlled the lives of Black workers, compelling them to work for whites (often for their former masters). Vaguely defined laws against “loitering” and “vagrancy” were used to keep Black people in a state of constant fear of being locked up, or worse. Even into the 1960s, Blacks were banned from “whites only” waiting areas in bus and train stations, forced to order from the back door at restaurants, and to live in the shadows, officially and legally second-class citizens. All this was enforced by violence from police and sheriffs like “Bull” Connor, and armed vigilantes—the Ku Klux Klan.
On June 11, 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in the entrance to the University of Alabama to block two African-American students from enrolling in the whites-only school, issuing his infamous call, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and the uprisings of the 1960s challenged segregation, and in part because of decades of heroic struggle and sacrifice, formal, legal segregation against African-Americans is no longer a matter of law.
But today, we see much of the same being visited on undocumented immigrants.
The Dogs Are Still in the Streets
Many years ago Gil Scott-Heron sang:
In Houston maybe someone said Mexicans were the new niggers
In LA maybe someone said Chicanos were the new niggers
In Frisco maybe someone said Orientals were the new niggers
Maybe in Philadelphia and North Carolina they decided they didn’t need no new niggers
I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this
But dogs are in the streets;
It’s a turn around world where things are all too quickly turned around
It was turned around so that right looked wrong; it was turned around so that up looked down...
The motherfucking dogs are still in the streets.
And things still need to change.
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