The mayor of the city with one of the highest percentages of black residents in America spoke out on Tuesday against legislation that compels the city to celebrate its Confederate heritage even though—and this part is absolutely bonkers—the city doesn’t have one.
Birmingham, Ala., is 72 percent black, making it the fourth-blackest municipality in America with more than 100,000 residents, according to U.S. Census data. It is also the largest city in a state that proudly calls itself “the birthplace of the Confederacy” after delegates from six states met on February 4, 1861 and formally established the Confederate States of America, deciding that they would rather own slaves than be Americans.
Because of this, it’s understandable why the state’s history-conscious lawmakers passed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, prohibiting the “relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument located on public property which has been in place for 40 or more years.” While the legislation makes no specific mention of Confederate memorials or white supremacist traitors to their country, it imposed a $25,000 fine for any municipality that violated the law.
In January 2019, a federal judge voided the law when Birmingham city officials decided to remove a Confederate monument that was erected in a downtown park in 1905. After Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall appealed the decision, Birmingham came up with a workaround: They built a wooden box around the memorial to white people getting their asses kicked.
But any history aficionado knows that whiteness produces an affinity for locating loopholes. According to WFSA, on Feb. 11, Alabama state Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) came up with a unique way to celebrate Black History Month. He introduced a bill that increased the fine to $10,000 per day for any city that disrespected the sanctity of the “lost cause” memorials.
“It’s important to protect the heritage and history of this great state,” Allen explained Confederately, conveniently forgetting to mention an important detail in this entire controversy:
Birmingham doesn’t have a Confederate history.
“The city of Birmingham, founded in 1871, did not exist during the Civil War,” said Birmingham Mayor Randal Woodfin. “So placing the statue in this park, having the statue in this park commemorating something that didn’t exist, it’s hard to make that connection. But I want you all to connect this: We’re saying preserve something, we’re saying protect something that is a slap in the face to black residents of this city.”
Aside from Woodfin’s factual clapback at the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers who usually favor local control, it should be noted that the monument was funded by the Birmingham Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Ku Klux Klan-loving neo-Confederate group that advocates for white supremacist terrorism, defended Confederate monuments after the Unite the Right March in Charlottesville, Va., and coordinated a campaign convincing textbook publishers to reframe the Civil War.
The group’s admitted goal is to “render it possible for these representatives of our Southern race to retain for that race its supremacy in its own land.” At the 14th annual meeting of the North Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a speaker extolled the organizations’ virtues:
You were the song of the Old South: you are the theme of the New South; and to-day in this high hour of peace and commercialism, when men are prone to forget, we find you banded together, United Daughters of the Confederacy, all still loyal to Southern rights, democracy, and, thank God, to white supremacy.
Voting on the bill has been postponed until the all-white Republican legislators can produce enough saliva to spit in all 210,000 faces of those who reside in Birmingham. Allen notes that his bill allows cities to obtain a waiver from the attorney general if they want to change an existing historical monument.
The Root could not confirm if Woodfin has submitted a formal request to excuse Birmingham’s residents from the Alabama white supremacist face-spitting law.