Groups call for legislator’s resignation, policies to dismantle white supremacy

Published 2:14 pm Friday, July 31, 2020

Three state advocacy groups – Alabama Arise, Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP – released a joint statement Friday calling for the resignation of Alabama Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, as well as policies to address white supremacy in the state.

Dismukes has been under fire since attending a birthday celebration for Ku Klux Klan founder and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest at Fort Dixie in Selma Saturday as the city was mourning the death of civil rights icon and late Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

Dismukes resigned as pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Prattville Wednesday as result of the outcry.

“Our elected officials and appointed leaders should respect the full dignity, worth and humanity of all people they represent,” the statement said. “We urge all political parties and public officials to acknowledge the harm that white supremacy continues to inflict upon Alabama. And we call upon them to dismantle white supremacist structures through intentional policy changes.”

The statement notes that Alabama’s constitution is founded on white supremacy – when asked in 1901 why the state needed a new constitution, Alabama Constitutional Convention President John Knox replied it was needed “to establish white supremacy in this state.”

While the groups specifically call out Dismukes for celebrating Forrest and the Confederacy, they note that more than Dismukes’ resignation will be required to heal racial wounds in the state.

“Alabama’s need for racial justice and healing reaches far beyond any one individual,” the statement read. “All elected officials must take a hard look at both their actions and the impacts of their policy decisions. Most lawmakers claim to support racial equality, but the results of their policy choices often do not match this claim.”

Among examples of this mismatch cited by the groups was the 2017 Memorial Preservation Act, which prevents cities from removing statues that “honor” the Confederacy without the threat of a hefty fine.

The group also cited lawmakers’ refusal to expand Medicaid in the state, which “leaves a disproportionate share of African-Americans without health insurance during a pandemic.”

The groups discussed troubling data in the state, which shows the reality of racial disparities in Alabama, including the fact that Black children are nearly three times as likely as white children to grow up in poverty and Black Alabamians’ median household income is more than $20,000 lower than the average white Alabamians’ income.

Additionally, Black Americans have been three times more likely to contract COVID-19 than white residents and nearly twice as likely to die from the disease.

Black people are also twice as likely as white people to be locked up in Alabama jails.

“It’s time for more than talk,” the groups said. “Denouncing and rejecting white supremacy is only the beginning. Lawmakers also must enact meaningful policy changes to break down institutional barriers to opportunity and justice for all Alabamians.”