Posts tagged Alabama

Disobey

Here's a black and white  photo of a group of black youths, standing in a park with their arms outstretched, facing the blast of a water cannon from the right.
Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Ala.
3 May 1963

Fifty-three years ago today, — one day after the start of the Children’s Crusade marches, — black youth were in the streets in Birmingham to march on City Hall and protest Jim Crow in one of the best-known protest marches in American history. They stood up against Mayor Art Haynes and Public Safety Commissioner Eugene Connor and his police and his fire department and the whole violent system of Jim Crow. They filled the jails and they kept marching. Desperate, Bull Connor ordered police and firemen to turn police dogs and water cannons on the kids in the street.

In the end, the kids in the street won, and the white power establishment, the segregationist politicians and the Public Safety Commissioners and the police lost.

This photograph is from Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama, May 3, 1963. It was taken by Bob Adelman.

Impeach Everybody

Excellent. Bring it on. Let’s re-impeach Chief Justice Roy Moore.

. . . Moore insisted Wednesday that his hastily called news conference was merely an opportunity for him to address the many complaints against him and not an indication that charges from the Judicial Inquiry Commission were forthcoming.

However, a source familiar with Moore’s case said Tuesday that the JIC had completed its review and was in the process of bringing charges against the chief justice. It would be the second time such charges were brought – the first coming in 2003 when Moore defied a federal court order to remove a large Ten Commandments statue from the judicial building.

A complaint filed by Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen against Moore appears to be the primary focus of the JIC charges, according to the source. Cohen’s complaint was several pages long and provided exhibits detailing specific instances in which Cohen believed Moore violated certain canons of judicial ethics.

Moore and Staver dismissed Cohen’s complaint as politically motivated and quickly tied the SPLC to a known transvestite named Ambrosia Starling. Moore went a step farther while discussing Starling’s officiating of a mock same-sex wedding on the judicial building steps, saying that transsexualism is a known mental illness.

–Josh Moon, Moore: Judicial complaints are politically motivated
Montgomery Advertiser, 27 April 2016

And hell, while you’re at it, why not —

Let’s impeach the Governor, too. Come on, y’all only need 11 more signatures.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) – The Alabama House of Representatives voted to set up a process for impeachment, but added a rule that may have killed articles of impeachment currently pending in the legislative session.

House members voted 78 – 14 to approve a resolution introduced by Rep. Matt Fridy, a Montevallo Republican, to create a process to handle impeachment legislation.

The resolution empowers the House Judiciary Committee to begin an investigation when 21 House members bring impeachment charges. The committee could meet at any time, even when the legislature is not in session.

. . . The requirement of 21 House members to bring impeachment charges was an amendment during the debate. The initial resolution called for 10 members to bring charges. Raising the number of co-sponsors may kill a bill by Rep. Ed Henry, a Hartselle Republican.

Rep. Henry currently has 11 co-sponsors on a bill listing four articles of impeachment against Gov. Robert Bentley. Henry says Gov. Bentley should be impeached for willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency and moral turpitude.

–Rick Journey, Ala. House sets up impeachment process but may have killed current impeachment bill against Bentley
WBRC FOX 6 News, 26 April 2016

There are few outcomes I can imagine that would be even better than once again removing Roy Moore from office, and paralyzing the state legislature in months of scorched-earth intra-party power struggles. ¡Que se vayan todos! Let’s impeach everybody.

Auburn Police Standards and the Shooting of Melissa Boarts

I picked up a copy of the most recent Plainsman the other day on my way to an appointment on campus. Behold the most predictable headline in the history of newspaper headlines.

Here's a copy of the front page of the Auburn Plainsman, with the headline "AUBURN POLICE SAY SHOOTING JUSTIFIED."

It’s a reference to the Auburn police who followed, confronted and killed Melissa Boarts on the highway last week. The police were following her because her parents called 911 out of fear that Melissa might be suicidal. The police followed her for miles until she stopped, then they saved her from harming herself by confronting her and shooting her to death.

The headline is more predictable than Dog Bites Man. If you programmed a Police Shooting Response robot that took police shooting reports as input and produced a claim of justification 100% of the time, only filling in the blanks with facts taken from the input and not adjusting the template in the slightest, you’d get the same headlines that you actually get from local police statements. Based on the extremely limited information that has been released so far, it’s possible that the police went overboard even by their own standards; it’s also perfectly possible that when the dash cam and body cam footage is released, it will turn out that the killing meets the police’s internal standards for justification — but if so, the police standards themselves are the problem. We don’t know how much police officers knew about how she was armed. The weapon that La Jura keeps talking about, always as a quote-unquote weapon without further clarification, was actually a small knife. Melissa’s parents and their lawyer say that they told the 911 dispatch that she had a knife; police claim that when she got out of the car they didn’t know what weapon she had in her hand. It may be that she brandished the knife in a way that would meet the police’s policies for using lethal force against her. But if so, then morally I think the problem with police procedures is that they take no real account of who initiated the confrontation, who escalated it, what other less-forceful options were available. We have here a case in which police pursued a woman who had committed no crime, followed her car for miles out of their own jurisdiction and into Macon County, cornered her when they were told she was upset and panicked and lightly armed, and then shot her to death when, they claim, she charged them. For ordinary people like you or me, a claim of self-defense requires that someone else is the aggressor; but police standards never take that into account.


Stories on the police shooting, what the police claim they knew, and what the family says they know about what happened, have appeared in the Huntsville Times (April 4), the Montgomery Advertiser (April 5), and The World According to Vladimir Putin (April 5). According to the Opelika-Auburn News (April 7), the family was desperately trying to reach Melissa’s car on the highway but the police cornered her and shot her before they could arrive; the OA News story also reports that there is both dash cam footage and body cam footage of the confrontation and the shooting. But the footage was given to the Alabama SBI, so that state police can investigate local police, and will not be released to the public until or unless the Macon County District Attorney decides that it should be. (The Macon County DA is putatively in charge of this decision because Auburn police followed her out of Auburn and pursued her on the highway into Macon County, where they shot her.)

See also.

“Are Mose and Minerva Less Distinctive than Lakisha and Jamal?” Mississippi State SHUR presentation

So over the past two semesters, I’ve been working on a long-term research project on black naming practices in the Alabama Black Belt during the period of slavery. As it turns out, I’ll be presenting some preliminary findings from my research later this month at the Mississippi State University Symposium for History Undergraduate Research (SHUR), April 29-30. I’ll be presenting Saturday morning, April 30, on a panel running from 8:30-9:50. Here’s what I’ll be talking about:

“Are Mose and Minerva Less Distinctive than Lakisha and Jamal? The Use and Abuse of Distinctively Black Names in Slavery and in Freedom”

Charles W. Johnson
Auburn University

Abstract:

Black and white Americans have different names. Names like “Keisha” or “Darnell” are widely and instantly perceived as ‘black,’ and names like “Brad,” “Meredith” and “Todd” as ‘white.’ The perception reflects a statistical reality: white and black Americans’ naming choices do systematically differ. Racialized naming differences can carry social and economic baggage for people with names that are perceived as distinctively black, including discrimination in education and during job searches. Economists such as Fryer and Levitt (2004) or Bertrand and Mullainathan (2004) devote several recent studies to possible causes and consequences of distinctively black naming patterns in the post-Civil Rights era. Yet distinctively black names, and social stigma against them, are not recent developments. In 1870 there were eight men named “Pompey,” or “Pomp” for short, living in Macon County, Alabama. All were black farm-hands, born under the Black Belt’s system of plantation slavery. Local whites included “Leonidas” and “Alexander,” but none were named after Caesar’s rival. “Pompey” was no outlier: in 1870 the Pompeys of Macon County lived alongside Livy Pinckard, Cato Brown, Romulus Dowdell and Remus Rainey – all exclusively black names, never seen among Macon County whites. Generally, the particular names marked as black or white have changed throughout American history, as the period of slavery receded and names like Mose or Minerva were replaced by Lakisha and Jamal. But divergent black and white naming systems are a long-standing, continuous phenomenon of America’s biracial culture, with their earliest roots in conflicts and negotiations between white slaveholders and black slaves over control of naming under slavery.

In this paper I offer a new analysis of quantitative data on naming patterns, based on the 1870 Census for Alabama Black Belt counties. Previous studies of slave naming practices have focused either on single plantations or on distinctive regions such as the South Carolina coast or Caribbean, with comparatively little attention to the Black Belt. Analysis of the Alabama data, using techniques from recent studies on contemporary naming practices, reveals distinctively black naming patterns in the Black Belt and a large pool of distinctively or uniquely African-American names dating back to the period of slavery. Contrary to Herbert Gutman’s suggestion that lexically distinctive black names (e.g. from classical or traditional African sources) were rare or marginal by the late antebellum period, I find that the data from the Black Belt counties demonstrate the persistence of significant, ongoing distinctively or uniquely black naming pools throughout the last decades of slavery and the first decade of emancipation.

Black Belt naming practices reveal elements both of planters’ impositions and slaves’ adaptation and resistance. Moreover, discrimination today against distinctively black names parallel the repetitive rhetorical use and abuse of ‘black’ names in antebellum writing as tropes standing for derisive or stereotyped images of blackness; but their use by freed black Alabamians also reveal the powerful personal and cultural meanings that they conveyed. Distinctively black names under slavery are like scars: visible signs of deep wounds, but also of the body’s effort to adapt and to heal.

Alabama Corrections

Shared Article from The Intercept

Alabama's Solution to Prison Riots: Build More Prisons

Alabama hopes to solve its prison crisis by building new prisons. Critics warn that more riots are likely.

theintercept.com


In addition to its lawsuit, the SPLC issued a damning report exposing widespread neglect and denial of medical care. In particular, the SPLC found that to cut costs inmates were regularly denied medical treatment, which in several cases resulted in death. The report described requests for medical help that were ignored, derided, or met with beatings or segregation. It found that inmates were unwillingly or unknowingly signed up for “do not resuscitate” orders, that poor diabetes care led to frequent amputations, and contagious diseases like hepatitis C spread untreated. The SPLC also found that surgeries were denied for sometimes as long as a decade, broken bones were often ignored for weeks, and prisoners suffering from burns and strokes were at times denied care for days.

The inmate interviewed by The Intercept said that in one instance, a fellow prisoner repeatedly tried to gain admission to the infirmary but was turned away. When he finally saw a doctor, he was diagnosed with cancer, had five tumors removed, and died weeks later. “I felt like they killed him,” the inmate said. “We really have no value.”

. . .

Glasgow and others in close contact with prisoners told The Intercept that more protests across Alabama prisons are imminent, and they listed a long catalogue of abuses compounding prisoners’ anger over their living conditions, including rat infestations, inedible food they dubbed “road kill,” and guards forcing inmates to fight each other in laundry rooms while betting on the outcome.

“When we look at how our prisons run, it’s really not a criminal justice system. It’s a criminal enterprise. A legal, criminal, enterprise,” the Holman inmate said. “If you make a felon out of a man, you take away his rights as a human being.”

. . .

Alabama’s new prison plan, if enacted, will add approximately 3,000 beds to the system, reducing overcrowding to 125 percent. In order to pay for it, the state will authorize an $800 million bond, which will be serviced by up to $50 million a year redirected from what the state already spends to maintain its decrepit prisons. “We were already solving this problem long before this took place,” Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, said in a press conference following the riots. He called the proposal “transformational thinking.”

Prisoner advocates were less impressed. “That would just move the problem,” said Watson. “In Alabama, we have a history: If we build them, then we overfill them.” Morrison, of EJI, said the state consulted several experts about its prison problems, and none had recommended building new prisons as a solution. “A multi-year prison construction does not address the immediate crisis they have,” she said.

Prisoners and their advocates say the only way to make incarceration humane — and legal — is to drastically cut the population of prisons, not build new prisons.

–Alice Speri, Alabama’s Solution to Prison Riots: Build More Prisons
The Intercept, 8 April 2016.