Hopefully, the third time is the charm for a measure to remove racist language from Alabama’s state constitution.
WRBL reports that an effort to “recompile” Alabama’s constitution is currently underway, with a measure to authorize lawmakers to do so on the state’s ballot this year. This is the third such effort to happen in the state, with prior efforts failing in 2004 and 2012, respectively. This time, the measure has bipartisan support, and any organized opposition has yet to appear in the lead-up to the election.
“What we are trying to do with this small measure is to bring the Alabama Constitution into the 21st century and be more reflective of who we are as a state now,” Rep. Merika Coleman, one of the sponsors of the measure, told WRBL.
The Alabama constitution was designed around the tenets of Jim Crow as a way to make white supremacy the law. So poll taxes are cool, interracial marriages aren’t, and you already know schools are segregated.
Now obviously, each of those things has been gradually struck down in the almost 120 years since the Alabama constitution was ratified, with the measure being more symbolic than anything. The legislation will allow lawmakers to clean up the document by removing the racist language as well as any duplicate sections.
This should be an easy lay-up, but this is America, and even trying to fix racist sentences comes with a fight.
While eradicating overt racism might seem like a logical move in 2020, approval isn’t a given: Voters in the majority white, conservative state have rejected similar proposals twice since 2000.
In 2004, conservatives helped kill a move to clean up the constitution by arguing the move could lead to increases in school taxes. Eight years later, education groups and others opposed a similar measure because it retained segregation-era language that denied the constitutional right to education in Alabama.
Supporters of the measure are being careful with how they present the issue this year.
Called Amendment 4, the proposal as written on statewide ballots does not even mention race. It just says the amendment would let the Legislature “recompile the Alabama Constitution and submit it during the 2022 Regular Session, and provide a process for its ratification by the voters ….”
As was pointed out earlier, there currently isn’t organized opposition to the measure, but there is concern that it may face difficulties should the state’s conservative ruling majority feel it’s tied to the anti-racism protests that have been ongoing throughout the year.
Leave it to conservatives to make being anti-anti-racism a notable part of its platform.
Coleman feels this argument would be disingenuous as there is no connection between this year’s protests and the passage of the legislation. “I don’t understand how anyone would conflate the two issues when we passed the measure in 2019 and it was completely bipartisan,” she told WRBL.
While Alabama’s Republican Governor, Kay Ivy, hasn’t taken an official position on the measure, her spokeswoman Gina Maiola has said the governor doesn’t oppose it.
It’s a completely innocuous measure that’s mostly symbolic in nature, and yet recent history shows Alabama voters may still not be entirely with it. In 2000, a measure was on the ballot to repeal a section of the constitution that outlawed marriage between Black and white people. Despite it already being an unenforceable law, 40 percent of voters still voted against repealing it.
Just sayin’, America will be racist for the sake of it sometimes. Okay, most of the time.