Aggressive gerrymandering efforts designed to dilute Black Alabamians’ votes have delivered supermajority control of the state’s legislature — and Alabama’s entire executive branch — to the extreme right wing. With Black voters largely blocked from electing their candidates of choice, Alabama’s unaccountable politicians are hard at work shredding the social safety net and attacking federal laws that protect our health.
Demonstrating just how reckless Alabama’s political leadership has become, the GOP is actually invoking Brown v. Board of Education in its latest campaign to harass and vilify Black women and families. Comparing herself to civil rights champions fighting to end school segregation, Rep. Mary McClurkin (R-Indian Springs) just pushed a package of bills through the House that would force women to carry pregnancies to term even where pregnancy results from rape.1
The GOP is appropriating the civil rights struggle to ram through its extreme, unconstitutional policy agenda,2 while depending on massive civil rights violations to win and hold office. And with November’s election already heating up, we can expect the hypocrisy will only get worse — unless national attention makes Alabama’s government’s predatory behavior toward its own Black constituents too difficult to publicly justify.
It’s time to take a stand: Demand Alabama’s Senate leadership and Gov. Robert Bentley recognize the House is committing a repugnant, costly overreach and reject HB 489, HB 490, HB 493, HB 494, and HB 31 now.
While Alabama’s white political bosses mock both the civil rights movement and Deep South’s continuing legacy of chattel slavery to the faces of their few remaining Black colleagues in Montgomery,3 everyday Alabamians are struggling to survive. Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families dollars are consistently diverted to projects that have nothing to do with fighting Alabama’s staggering poverty rates, and the state has flirted with becoming the first to end TANF entirely.4,5
Alabama insists single adults making just $1,332 a year are too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid,6 blocking access to basic medical care for hundreds of thousands of residents. Gov. Bentley could easily expand Medicaid coverage with funding from President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — creating 30,000 much-needed jobs, growing wages, and generating nearly $1 billion in new revenue — but he’s refused.7,8 Alabama’s already low abortion rate could be further reduced under the ACA’s expanded access to contraception, but Attorney General Luther Strange is suing to keep that from happening.9,10
It’s clear the right wing’s retrograde agenda has nothing to do with standing up for families or protecting the vulnerable — it’s about foreclosing opportunity for Black communities and suppressing Black political power. Despite our growing numbers — over 26% of Alabamians identify as Black — and record levels of voter registration, Black voters and elected officials now have less influence than at any time since the civil rights era.
The GOP strategy is to “pack” Black constituents into fewer districts, “crack” up influential communities in non-majority Black districts, and otherwise “bleach” formerly diverse districts prone to cross-racial coalition building. The resulting, unearned Republican wins have stripped formerly influential Black legislators of leadership positions and the ability to move policy or conduct oversight,11 making Alabama’s government increasingly indifferent to Black constituents’ interests. Even before last year’s Shelby County Supreme Court ruling validated Alabama’s “unbroken chain of repetitive discrimination” dating to the early days of the Voting Rights Act,12 this ruthless redistricting push has sought to reinstate the bad old days of political apartheid, when representing Black folks was simply not required of white officials.13
What’s happening in Alabama should be a national scandal. Tell the state Senate and governor to do their jobs representing all Alabamians — and ensuring the state doesn’t fall farther behind — instead of finding new ways to victimize Black families and communities.
Thanks and Peace,
–Arisha, Rashad, Matt, Kim, Johnny, Hannah and the rest of the ColorOfChange team
April 1st, 2014
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1. “Alabama House Passes Extreme ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban, Three Other Anti-Choice Bills,” RH Reality Check, 03-05-2014
2. “Alabama Lawmakers Propose Near-Total Abortion Ban, Other Severe Restrictions,” RH Reality Check, 02-20-2014
3. “Equating Slavery and Abortion: Where are the Women in this story?” Feministing, 01-24-2011
4. “Alabama Voters to Decide Whether to Save Poor Kids,” Mother Jones, 09-18-2012
5. “Alabama: The sixth poorest state in America,” AL.com, 01-16-2014
6. “As Alabama Cuts Benefits, Desperate Man ‘Robs’ Bank To Get Food, Shelter In Jail,” ThinkProgress, 07-11-2013
7. “Study: Expanding Medicaid would create 30,700 jobs,” AL.com, 10-09-2013
8. “Senate Democrats Remind Governor Bentley that Alabama Must Expand Medicaid,” Alabama Political Reporter, 10-12-2013
9. “Alabama joins EWTN in new lawsuit against Obamacare contraception mandate,” AL.com, 10-28-2013
10. “Study: Abortion rate at lowest point since 1973,” Washington Post, 02-02-2014
11. “The Decline of Black Power in the South,” New York Times, 07-10-2013
12. “What Is Alabama’s Problem With the Voting Rights Act?” The Nation, 02-26-2013
13. “Keeping Black Voters in Their Place,” New York Times, 11-05-2013