Alabama’s racism

An editorial from Press Associates Union News Service

Given its ugly history, it’s no surprise that Alabama approved racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic law HB56. The law, passed by the GOP legislature and pushed through by the GOP governor, cries out for a nationwide counterattack.

This law actually makes the notorious Arizona anti-Hispanic statute, SB1070, look “moderate” by comparison. Not only does Alabama criminalize anyone who looks different, it criminalizes anyone who helps people who look different.

Like the Arizona law, HB56 lets law enforcement stop anyone on sight, or, exercising their authority during investigation of another possible offense – such as, say, traffic stop — demand immediate proof of legal residency.

If such proof is not provided, the person is arrested, detained and deported.

But then Alabama goes far beyond Arizona:

* If a person needs a lift and he or she looks “different” i.e. Hispanic, and you stop and offer a lift, you’re breaking the law. You’re aiding the alleged “criminal,” so you’re a criminal yourself. Same thing if you even offer a drink of water.

* If you sign a business contract and the other signer is “illegal,” you’ve broken the law. You’re a criminal, too.

* If you rent out an apartment and the renter is undocumented, you’ve broken the law. You’re a criminal, too.

* If you’re a six-year-old kid in school and you look “different,” the principal is strongly encouraged to ask you if you’re legal, and if your parents are. “Think of the fear” that puts into a child, says Service Employees Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina.

* “Different” kids are also barred from higher education.

The law only took effect, partially, in September. What are the results, so far?

Some families with Hispanic names, regardless of their status, are signing over custody of their children to non-Hispanic families, just in case. Parents are pulling their children out of school. Workers have quit their jobs. Families are literally packing up and fleeing the state in the dead of night.

The union movement, workers’ rights groups, civil rights groups, and Hispanic organizations, among others, have banded together in a national campaign to get Alabama to repeal HB56. Even some business groups have signed on. After all, they’ve lost employees, customers, or both.

But the provisions of the Alabama law, its wide sweep and its criminalization of not just Hispanics but of anyone who even lifts a finger to help them reminded a colleague of ours at the Peoples World of some gruesome history.

To be precise, he cited Nazi Germany before the War, when Jews were fired, barred from occupations, herded into ghettos, demonized, criminalized, beaten, persecuted, and physically singled out: By an identifiable symbol, the six-pointed star with the word “Juden” (Jew) for their religion, which they had to wear pinned to their clothes.

And we know what happened after that first racism in Nazi Germany and Nazi-overrun Europe. It’s enough to make you shudder, then raise hell against Alabama.

Because in Alabama, our colleague says, “All that’s missing is the star.”

Photo: Protestors march outside the Alabama Capitol during a demonstration against Alabama’s immigration law, in Montgomery, Nov. 15.  (Dave Martin/AP)



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.