Posts tagged Montgomery

Monday Lazy Linking


Here’s Jenn Rowell in the Montgomery Advertiser on a recent murder in Tallassee. Notice the amazing disappearing subject:

Tallassee police have released additional information about a fatal shooting that involved officers.

In the news, fatal shootings just happen somehow, and officers, poor things, somehow end up involved.

Of course, what actually happened is that some white cops working on the Tallassee city government’s police force chased a black man down and then they shot him to death. Their victim, Michael McIntyre, was not actually accused of any crime whatsoever; the cops were in the housing projects where he lives because they were looking for somebody else to serve a warrant. (Who they found, and arrested, without any trouble. But Michael McIntyre ran away, which cops in America take as a crime in itself, and sufficient reason to chase after you, force a violent confrontation, and take you down by any means necessary, even if it means lighting you up (the police so far have refused to disclose how many shots were fired, beyond the fact that their victim was hit multiple times).

Cops claim that McIntyre brandished a weaponafter a gang of heavily-armed strangers had chased him for 200 or 300 yards. I don’t know whether that’s true or not — there’s certainly no reason to just take the police at their word — but even if it is true, I don’t much care. If I had no reason to be looking for you, no reason to hang around bothering you — if you were never accused of any crime and I had no basis to arrest or detain or harass you over anything — and you decided to leave, then you have a right to leave. If I took your decision to leave as an offense against my person or prerogative, and then chased you down, threatening to use my small arsenal of weapons to restrain you by any means necessary, and so forced a violent confrontation with you when, again, you were not suspected of committing any crime, or of posing any threat to anyone, and if I then ended it all by lighting you up, in self-defense against a threat which, if it existed at all, was purely the product of my own belligerence and escalation, then I would be considered a dangerous maniac, and I would probably be in prison for the next couple decades, if not the remainder of my natural life.

Of course, here the dangerous maniac is a gang of cops armed and uniformed by the city government. So instead they get a crowd control goon squad to clear the area of upset black people, while the Mayor pro tem of the city government takes time out to roll up and do some damage control, while their colleagues in the Alabama Bureau of Investigation perform a perfunctory investigation that will almost certainly end up by declaring that everything they did was done According To Official Procedures.

(Via Roderick 2009-12-31.)

See also:

MLK Monday #2

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day to honor the life and the thought of Dr. King — a hagiographed, ignored, misunderstood, overrated, and indispensable man; one of our greatest Southern heroes; an agitator and a moral witness who gave long years of his life to the cause of the Freedom Movement, and who — underneath the television specials and the holy martyr imagery that so often serves to obscure and empty out his real, fallible, challenging, essential vision — played a vital role (together with Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and countless others) in changing the world for the better, within living memory. If he were not taken from us, Dr. King would have celebrated his 77th birthday yesterday.

Most of what I want to say today, I said last year, in GT 2005-01-17: MLK Monday. So, instead of repeating myself, I link; and having linked, I step aside for the man himself.

I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. … I say it as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen. … In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed. I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshippers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother. In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.

— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

And also:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was well timed, according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the words Wait! It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This Wait has almost always meant Never. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that justice too long delayed is justice denied.

We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, Wait. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading white and colored; when your first name becomes nigger, your middle name becomes boy (however old you are) and your last name becomes John, and your wife and mother are never given the respected title Mrs.; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask: How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that An unjust law is no law at all.

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes and I-it relationship for an I-thou relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn’t segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action; who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a more convenient season. Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is merely a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, where the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substance-filled positive peace, where all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured. …

… You spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of the extremist. … But as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist for love — Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. Was not Amos an extremist for justice — Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ — I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Was not Martin Luther an extremist — Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God. Was not John Bunyan an extremist — I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience. Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist — This nation cannot survive half slave and half free. Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist — We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice—or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thusly fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail


  • GT 2005-01-17: MLK Monday: this is, as I mentioned, what I wrote last year. I still kind of like it.

  • Austro-Athenian Empire 2006-01-15: Happy Actual Birthday: Roderick remembers King on just and unjust laws.

  • Negro Please 2006-01-16: Repost in Honor of MLK, Jr. Day reposts his excellent tribute from two years ago

  • Pseudo-Adrienne 2006-01-16: Remembering Him: Never forget them, never forget him, and never forget what he struggled and died for. The dream that we would live in a color blind society and there would be racial equality. How far have we come? Or was Dr. King’s dream unfortunately just that, a dream, and therefore— given America’s ugly history of perpetuating racism and even sexism and other forms of bigotry sanctioned by the law— too fanciful to achieve. Nonetheless, the man was on one of the twentieth century’s greatest orators and noble leaders, and symbols of justice, racial equality, and freedom.

  • Chris Johanesen 2006-01-16: King’s Dream Still a Dream: Every Martin Luther King Jr day, whites all over the nation drag out King’s 1963 I Have a Dream, speech and pat themselves on the back about how far we’ve come as a just society. I suggest we try one of his other speeches for a change, Where Do We Go From Here?, from 1967: . . . I’m not saying we haven’t made progress since 1967—we surely have—but I would argue that we still have a very long way to go before we get anywhere near to realizing Dr. King’s dream.

  • Black Looks 2006-01-16: Martin Luther King Day: a wonderful, meditative photo of King, and a pointer to further discussion: The legacy of Martin Luther King is discussed in this weeks Black Commentator. The promised land and why we are still waiting by Anthony Asadullah Samad.

  • Echidne of the Snakes 2006-01-16: Messages from Martin Luther King remembers him through his words, including: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter, and Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

  • Ed Brayton, Positive Liberty 2006-01-16: Martin Luther King’s Dream: … I cannot listen to King’s I Have A Dream speech without getting goosebumps. It is one of the most inspirational speeches you will ever hear …, made more so in my view because of his invocation of the Declaration of Independence as a promissory note. … I can’t even read those words on a page without getting goosebumps. American history, as I have often said, is largely the story of perpetually extending the principles found in the Declaration to cover more and more people. It should have been enough 230 years ago to cover everyone, but change is slow and sometimes it takes a long time for the true implications of our stated principles to rise to the top. It rose through the bravery and sacrifice of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and so many others, through the bravery and sacrifice of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and so many others, just as today it continues to rise through the efforts of millions of people to bring equality and liberty to so many gay Americans who are still denied the basic dignities that the rest of us take for granted. Let freedom ring, indeed.

  • Dr. B’s Blog 2006-01-16: Lest you thought I forgot: The struggle continues!

  • David T. Beito, Liberty and Power 2006-01-16: King, Marx, and Statism: Last January, I put up these statements from Martin Luther King, Jr. in his book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story published in 1957, but they are well worth repeating … This deprecation of individual freedom was objectionable to me. I am convinced now, as I was then, that man is an end because he is a child of God. Man is not made for the state; the state is made for man. To deprive man of freedom is to relegate him to the status of a thing, rather than elevate him to the status of a person. Man must never be treated as means to the end of the state; but always as an end within himself.

  • to the barricades 2006-01-16: The speech that unfortunately never loses its relevance: Martin Luther King Jr, Beyond Vietnam.

  • Christine C., 2006-01-16: Remembering MLK, in Words and Images: I’ve just returned from lunch with a former priest from Chicago who marched in Selma and Montgomery with Martin Luther King Jr. He vividly recalled the hoof marks embedded in the Capitol lawn from police horses brought in to scare the marchers. He spoke of receiving King’s blessing before kneeling on the first two steps of the Capitol in prayer — a prayer that had to be negotiated with police, as the group was prohibited from moving even one step higher (though one priest suggested they make a break for it and run to the top). Driving between Montgomery and Birmingham in a convertible with black and white priests, they were stopped at a highway roadblock. They were eventually let through, but the fear he felt that day is still evident, more than 40 years later.

  • Fighting for a Lost 2006-01-16: We’re still killing our prophets quotes Stephen Oates’s biography, telling the story of King’s final hours, memorial, and funeral.

  • Frank Newport, Gallup Polls 2006-01-16: Martin Luther King Jr.: Revered More After Death Than Before offers some interesting statistics about how King was thought of at the time and how he is thought of today. You’ll also find some interesting statistical grist for the mill if you want to think about the politics of popular admiration. It also ought to remind you that, in the midst of all the very public demonstrations of affection for King from the white moderates and even the hard Right, how genuinely challenging and polarizing his struggle — against racism, and poverty, and imperial war — was. (And still is, when it is actually taken seriously.)

  • Remember Segregation: a vivid memorial to Dr. King and the victims of segregation in the Jim Crow South

  • Slate 2006-01-16: Zoom In: Celebrating Martin Luther King, a retrospective photo essay.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project features printed volumes, electronic copies, and audio and video files of many of King’s essays, sermons and speeches.


It’s astonishing to realize that everything Dr. King was a part of, and everything he spoke out against, struggled against, and, in some tremendous cases, defeated, was happening while my parents were in college, just about 40 years ago. To think of what Dr. King’s efforts, and the efforts of the countless heroes—those whose names we know and the thousands of ordinary people who haven’t made it into the books or the teevee specials—have meant for the world in those few years. Yes, we are living through dark days, but think of what it was like just within our memory or the memory of our parents. As Dr. King put it: Let us remember that the arc of the Universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I hope so. Happy MLK Day, y’all.

Glad Tidings, and More on Moore

Glad tidings! Today, Roy Moore faced an ethics panel for his defiance of a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court building. And the news just in is that they have issued a formal complaint against Moore — suspending him from his duties on the Alabama Supreme Court while the complaint goes before the Court of the Judiciary. If the complaint is upheld in the Court, Moore could be removed from the bench — a victory not only for the rule of law, but for the people of Alabama: someone who is willing to defy a federal court order in order to pull a petty political stunt and push his fundamentalist agenda is a threat to all of us.

Whichever way it turns out, the Associate Justices have at least found the backbone to unanimously overrule Moore and order that the monument be removed from the rotunda [WSFA]. (They can overrule the normal administrative authority of the Chief Justice by a unanimous vote.) So the state of Alabama will most likely not be facing fines for non-compliance, and the damn thing will be moved.

This phase of the battle is winding down, and unless something unexpected happens, you can count on the story to drop out of the national limelight soon. Unfortunately, the whole chain of events has left the national press more or less mystified as to what was going on. Worse, they didn’t realize that they were mystified; they simply substituted their own cariacature of Southern politics for the facts of the matter — redneck jamboree might be an apt description of the picture you get of the events in Montgomery from the coverage in, say, the Washington Post or the New York Times. So let me take a moment to talk about some of these misconceptions.

First, while Moore certainly has a strong base of support amongst white conservatives in Alabama — that’s how he got elected, after all — the crazy-Right Christian fundamentalist demonstrators who have been picked out as mouthpieces for Moore are, by and large, not from Alabama. The events in Montgomery were coordinated on the ground by flacks of the Christian Coalition; supporting organizations flew people in from nearly every state. Although there were certainly Alabamians demonstrating outside of the courthouse, local newsreporters found that they were distinctly a minority amidst the crowds brought in by the Christian Defense Council, Christian Coalition, and others. Meanwhile in television punditry, the only major Alabama faces were John Giles of the Alabama Christian Coalition and Roy Moore himself. Most commentary came from yet more out-of-state professional Christians, such as representatives from Concerned Women for America.

The point of all this is that national media has gotten it wrong about who they are reporting on; it’s not a matter of Alabamians, but rather a matter of the nation-wide network of Religious Right fundamentalists, who happen to be using events in Alabama as their focal point. To say that this reflects one way or another on Alabama is no more accurate than to say the 500 attendees of Southern Girls Convention 2001 in Auburn make Alabama a hotbed of radical feminist activism.

Closely related to this misunderstanding are the incessant comparisons that the national press makes between Roy Moore and George Wallace. Sure, both of them are Southern demagogues who rode a hard Right white quasi-populism to public office and national attention. Sure, both of them acted in defiance of federal courts demanding protection of the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Sure, both of them had a penchant for flamboyant confrontation and ultimately served to embarass the state of Alabama in the national spotlight. But the similarities end there. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of Roy Moore’s position and his motivations to read this as just another crisis over the powers of Southern states vis-a-vis the federal government. Although some of those supporting Roy Moore have given states’ rights as a reason against obeying the federal court, that is not the primary reasons that Roy Moore gives. Here are the reasons that Moore gives:

Separation of church and state never was meant to separate God from our government. It was never meant to separate God from our law.

The question is not whether I will remove the monument. It is not a question of whether I will disobey or obey a court order. The real question is whether or not I will deny the God that created us.

It’s not about states’ rights for Moore; it’s about Jesus. The issue is not his understanding of federalism but rather his understanding of the proper relationship between God and the State. His aims are not decentralist, but rather theocratic. To fail to understand this is to fail to understand the new breed of confrontational conservatism that Moore and his followers represent — a breed of conservatism that the Religious Right has been spreading for the past 30 years or so now.

Complaining about the Yankee press, of course, is not to say that there are not plenty of homegrown misunderstandings of Moore — there are lots, coming from his own defenders. But comments on the Right-wing deviationists will have to wait for a while. In the meantime, let’s just bask in the glow of these happy events: Roy Moore is suspended from his position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Hosanna, and amen.

For further reading:

Hallelujah, and Amen

At the time I am writing this, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court has been in contempt of a federal court for half an hour. As of 12:00am he carried his battle against the Establishment Clause to a new level, as he officially stood in defiance of a federal court order to remove his two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. In the process, he has created a national media circus; he has become yet another embarassment for Alabama in the Yankee press; and his actions may end up costing the State Treasury at the tune of some $5,000 / day if U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson makes good on the fine that he says he has been mulling over. But, as someone who’s spent the majority of my life in Alabama, right now I can feel nothing but excitement as Moore makes his lawless stand.

Why is that, you ask? Well, for those who have not followed Moore over the past decade or so of his career, he has made a long career of confrontational theocratic politics, from the original battle over his display of the Ten Commandments and other conduct in his Etowah County Circuit Court, to his ascent to the position of Chief Justice, to his use of the position to issue virulently homophobic tirades masquerading as case law. He is, at best, a dangerous zealot who is willing to use the State’s power of the sword to further his own ends. At worst, he is a demagogue and a charlatan blasphemously using a confrontational form of fundamentalist Christianity to pull media stunts for his own political and financial advancement. My own suspicion is that he is both—that he honestly believes in a version of fundamentalist Christianity that is actually much closer to a form of Gnosticism, a modern-day Right-wing revivalism that legitimates the use of such confrontational tactics and phony martyrdom.

Whatever his real motivations are, his presence on the Supreme Court bench in the state of Alabama has been a terrible liability for the state, and the more blatantly lawless he becomes, the worse it gets. The reason I am so excited is that Moore has gone too far out on thin ice. Tomorrow, the Southern Poverty Law Center will file a motion for him to be found in contempt of court, and if we are lucky, it will land his sorry ass in jail. More to the point, however, the SPLC is also initiating an ethics complaint against Moore, since his defiance of a federal court order is in obvious violation of several sections of the Canon of Judicial Ethics of the Code of Alabama. Moore’s latest exercise in demagoguery has given our state a wonderful opportunity—that is, it has made it quite likely that he will be thrown out of the Supreme Court within a matter of weeks.

Those of you who know me know that I don’t very much like petty vengeance in politics. I don’t usually delight in the misfortunes of people that I disagree with, even politicians that I loathe. It doesn’t fill me with glee to see Roy Moore act in defiance of the Constitution and the federal courts, or to know that it may well result in trouble for him. What makes me happy, and excited, is the prospect of a threat removed—I’m glad that very soon Moore may no longer pose a threat to the judicial system of Alabama.

(N.B.: Watch this space for more on the morrow. I have some more to say about Moore, as well as the local and national media coverage of the fracas. But it can wait; tonight I just want to celebrate the very real possibility of Moore’s impending fall.)

For further reading: