Show sees big picture in visit to Selma

Published 7:06 pm Friday, April 28, 2017

Over the last few years, Selma has been spotlighted many times by national media, and many in the city have probably grown accustomed to the extra attention. Of course, when Oprah Winfrey or the president pay a visit, you can always expect some extra press.

But this week’s national attention came from an unexpected place. We knew that The Daily Show, a political satire program, was in Selma during Jubilee weekend, but we weren’t sure at the time what they were filming and when the segment would run on the show.

As it turns out, the program and correspondent Jordan Klepper were in our city as part of the The Daily Show’s Alabama week — a five day look into the state where the comedy show has its worst ratings. When I first found out the program would air Wednesday night and include Selma Mayor Darrio Melton, I admit that I cringed a little bit, but only because I want Selma to be properly portrayed and not relegated to stereotypes people so often hear before coming to our city. Sometimes, it feels like other publications add to those stereotypes when they write or talk about Selma, just because they don’t know this area well. They expect one thing when they get to Selma, try to find a person who fits that stereotype, get the quotes they need and take off elsewhere.

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As it turns out, I had nothing to be concerned about. The Daily Show isn’t for everyone — the cursing and political snarkiness can rub some the wrong way —but Klepper actually went right at the stereotypes people hear about Selma (and Alabama in general). Of course, there was some comedy involved, but the piece focused around the funding controversy surrounding The Battle of Selma and The Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

Although that controversy took place this year, those two events have become staples of our city and are celebrated by thousands of people that travel to Selma each year. Many people around the country don’t know that history, so the show helped spread Selma’s past to a new audience.

There isn’t another city in the world with the history of Selma. This city will always be linked to the infamous Bloody Sunday, and The Battle of Selma was also a huge part of our city’s history, and there’s no reason that both can’t be celebrated. That was Klepper’s biggest takeaway from the piece.

“Alabama may have these painful, conflicting histories, but the people there aren’t choosing to sweep them under the rug. They live with them side by side trying to learn from their past rather than bury it,” Klepper said on the show. “In a way, it’s the story of America.”

If that’s the final message taken from the show’s visit to Selma, I’d say it couldn’t be more positive than that. Selma can set an example for the rest of the country to follow.