The state of Alabama continues to stain the nation as it shows us one of the many ways America’s racist legacy persists. Every fourth Monday in April, Alabama consciously chooses to honor hate and the myth of white supremacy by celebrating Confederate Memorial Day – a state holiday, meaning state and government offices are closed for business.
As AI.com reports: “Confederate Memorial Day traces its roots back to 1866 when the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia passed a resolution to set aside a day to honor Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. Almost 260,000 Civil War soldiers were killed in the line of duty.” This tradition memorializes men and women that gave their lives to maintain the inhumanity of enslavement. Alabama fought for the continuance of the brutalization, torture and exploitation of black people. Alabamans fell in love with this cruelty so deeply, they were willing to secede from the Union and challenge the very idea of a United States of America if it meant the abandonment of slavery.
To illustrate this point, Vox reports, Alabama seceded from the Union on January 11th, 1861 and during the Alabama Secession Convention held that month, it was proclaimed that: “the institution of African slavery now existing in the slaveholding states” was “a moral, social, and political blessing.”
For further evidence of Alabama’s fear of ending enslavement, here is a letter sent by Alabama Commissioner, Stephen Hale, directed towards then Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin on December 27th, 1860:
“Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republican party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as a change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore, it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions – nothing less than an open declaration of war.”
This deplorable tradition has been going on for 152 years and its continuance speaks to the desire of many white Alabamans and elected officials to show no remorse or shame for this part of Alabama’s history. On this day every year, white Alabamans want to remind black Alabamans that subordination through white violence has emotional, psychological and practical importance to their lives. They enjoy the annual reminder of division, racism and bigotry. They are not thinking about black Alabamans who have great grandmothers and great grandfathers who suffered unspeakable pain on the plantations of horror. And many are passing on oral traditions of lies and intolerance to their children and grandchildren.
I have no doubt that there are some white Alabamans who are ashamed of this past and want a better future for all in their home state. But what drives a great majority is clinging to the myth of white supremacy. We’ve seen it in Alabama’s anti-democratic and repressive voter ID laws. We’ve seen 68% of white Alabamans vote for the failed candidacy of Roy Moore, a credibly accused child molester and bigot who has also spoken fondly about slavery. Their most popular politician remains Jeff Sessions, the most racist, white supremacist Attorney General in modern times – so it should come as no surprise that the Confederate Memorial Day is still in place.
White Alabama appears to have no serious interest in addressing its abysmal racist history with acknowledgment, healing and actions. They are stuck in the remembrance of evil. Even something as basic and symbolic as Confederate Memorial Day remains intact. As many continue to honor the unforgivable, decent Alabamans must move on and fight for a better day.
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