D Kevin McNeirEditor's ColumnColumnistsOpinion

EDITOR’S COLUMN: Why I Always Dreaded Those Childhood Trips to Alabama

The election for Alabama’s seat in the Senate has been resolved. And in what many see as a stunning upset, the Republican candidate, the highly controversial Roy S. Moore, has lost as an ominously dark cloud hovered over his head alleging his numerous sexual encounters and acts of improper behavior years ago involving several women and at least one underage girl. His opponent, Doug Jones, representing the Democratic party, has defeated the Trump-endorsed former judge, narrowing the GOP majority in the Senate to just two seats.

Yes, the citizens of Alabama — the state where a seamstress took a stand on public buses, where four little girls lost their lives in their families’ church at the hands of extreme racists, where the nation watched as innocent protesters were mercilessly beaten while exercising their rights on a once innocuous bridge and where voters chose a staunch segregationist publicly endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, George Wallace, for governor, presumably in clear support of his mantra, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” — have had their say.

Now what? As the election reached the homestretch, polls showed that some 50 percent of the voters were less concerned about the allegations against Moore, if they even believed in the validity of those charges, than other issues that include: standardized test scores that are among the nation’s lowest; infant mortality rates that have reached their highest numbers in 10 years and with black infants death rates twice as high — even 30.3 percent higher in some parts of the state — than white infants; jam-packed, violence-wracked prisons bursting at the seams at 159 percent beyond their intended capacity; tuberculosis, diabetes and heart disease that have surged to percentages which some health experts describe as “pandemic”; and a poverty rate that’s the fifth-highest in the U.S., hovering near 17 percent.

Of course, Moore has refused to concede and has demanded a recall which is his right given the small margin of victory by Jones. Meanwhile, the people of Alabama continue to suffer.

During my childhood, my family, like the legendary “birds of Capistrano,” would return to rural Alabama every summer to the town where my father was born and raised, Camden, about an hour away from Selma. I looked forward to the summer trip about as much as I liked going to the dentist. But my kicking and screaming amounted to very little. Not with Dad running the show.

To be clear, it wasn’t the fact that the small village whose downtown was a whopping four blocks in length didn’t have a McDonald’s, or a movie theater, or an indoor public basketball court, or a roller skating rink, or a bowling alley or a center for the arts or a quality restaurant or a swimming pool that allowed “coloreds” to dive in. No, what made me dread those annual trips was the unavoidable specter of racism that colored every word, every action, every moment, every city and every citizen. Restaurants often refused to serve us and cashiers, rather than risking the chance of touching my mother’s hand when she handed over her money — would throw the change back at her with disdain. White drivers passing by my grandfather’s farm would yell obscenities at us — the worst being hurled at my sister, my mom, my aunts and my female cousins. Yet, on Sundays those same white Alabamians would smile with prayerfully-clasped hands eager to showcase their evangelical zeal as they proclaimed their love of Jesus — whether they had time to remove their sheets or not.

Since the death of my grandfather during my teens and then my father’s death when I was 25, I have not gone back to the family homestead. I have not taken my two children or my two grandsons to cast their gaze on the birthplace of our patriarchal ancestors so they could better understand our roots. I suppose I’ve been somewhat afraid of how I would feel and what I might find, if I were to step back in time and revisit Camden, Selma, Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham. But given the state of affairs and the numerous inequities that Blacks still face, more than 50 years since the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I think I’ll just be content with my memories — and not make any new ones.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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