with thanks to Ani di Franco
Hello, Birmingham. It’s Northampton. Heard you had some trouble down there again. Just calling to let you know I don’t understand.
I grew up in Alabama. As much as I may make fun of it, I love it. Being able to run around barefoot for most of the year, bitching with everyone about the clusterfuck that is Highway 280, the Highland Booksmith where I was on a first-name basis with the owner, Vulcan guarding the Magic City, the theme song to Rick and Bubba’s morning radio show, the Cahaba River, Mardi Gras in Mobile, Chilton County peaches so big and ripe the juice runs down to your elbows when you eat them. I’ve lived in Massachusetts for nearly 4 years now, but I still usually think of Alabama as “home.”
But now I’m ashamed of you, ashamed to call this state home.
It’s HB-56. This bill makes me sick, it makes me disgusted, it makes me angry–but most of all, it makes me sad. You should know better, Alabama,
You shouldn’t be bragging about how it’s the strictest immigration bill in the country, stricter than Arizona’s SB-1070. This isn’t something you should be proud of, Alabama. It’s racism, pure and simple. I bet there are no white people are being forced to prove their immigration/citizenship status because police have “reasonable suspicion” that they’re in the country illegally. Canada has close to three times the population of Mexico, but I don’t hear any politicians flapping their jaws about illegal immigration from Canada. You’re attacking immigrants who aren’t white, and you should know better.
Have you forgotten the Civil Rights Movement? Have you forgotten the four little girls who were killed in a KKK bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church? They had names: Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair. Have you forgotten the Selma march? The Montgomery bus boycott? Bull Connor and his henchmen turning fire hoses and police dogs on protesters? Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”? Have you forgotten all of this? Did you learn nothing, Alabama? You’ve just gone from persecuting black people to persecuting brown people, and you should know better.
I’m 25, so I wasn’t around during the Civil Rights Movement. But I do remember learning about it in school. I remember pictures in history textbooks of people being attacked by German shepherds, encouraged by their police handlers. I’ve seen Rosa Parks’ bus. My high school was three blocks from the Birmingham jail where Martin Luther King wrote his famous letter. I skipped class to go to a protest when the KKK marched through downtown Birmingham like they had every right to be racist.
Learn from your mistakes, Alabama. What you’re doing isn’t okay.
Outside my city is bracing for the next killing thing, standing by the bridge and praying for the next Dr. Martin Luther King.