Reader responds to letter

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 10, 2004

To the editor:

I am writing in response to Dusty Brown’s letter published on August 6. I don’t know him but his letter decrying divisiveness was divisive itself. For those readers who did not see the letter, he states that Mayor Perkins’ “obstinate removal of the Gen. N.B. Forrest monument from its legal resting place” was “arguably the greatest racially divisive act since Faya Rose Toure (Rose Sanders) single handedly segregated the Selma Public School System in 1991.”

I think people should remember that Toure or no one else suddenly decided to go topple a Confederate monument. The divisive episode began with the decision by the Friends of N.B. Forrest, on no particular anniversary related to the Civil War or General Forrest, to erect a monument of the founder of the Ku Klux Klan on city property just at the time a new, black mayor was replacing the white one in a town with Selma’s history. It is impossible to believe that they did not know this action would be divisive and would lead to the bad publicity this town hates. It is easy to suspect that they intended it to be divisive.

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And I disagree with Brown’s statement that Toure single-handedly segregated the schools. I am not writing this to justify her actions, but for the white community to look only at that time is to ignore the history of the Selma school system and the reason why Toure and other black people are angry and why they objected to the schools’ tracking system. Everybody knows that Selma’s schools were segregated many years before Toure came to Selma – and before that provided no education at all for black children. I know from researching school board records for a book that the city for many years spent three times as much on white children as on black children. If you were a black parent or student what was the message? “Your children aren’t worth as much as ours. We don’t want your children in school with our children.”

When, almost 20 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered desegregation, Selma’s schools finally bowed to the law, a group of white citizens formed the segregated Morgan Academy. I am well aware that a number of Selmians stuck with the public schools at that point but in my experience, those who blame Toure for driving them away do not similarly criticize the founders of the segregated school for their action. Here’s a question: Why is Morgan Academy still segregated? I have lived in Philadelphia and New Orleans, where many parents send their children to private schools, but not one of those schools is segregated. Many go out of their way to attract black students with scholarships, etc.

Selma has a lot of good people who wish all the divisiveness would end. It won’t as long as members of the white community blame all of Selma’s racial problems on one or two or five or ten black people.

Julia Cass