Gardendale, Ala., is an interesting place.
I’ll allow The Root Senior Writer Michael Harriot to do the honor of explaining why that is, at least in part, as previously reported here:
A judge told a mostly white suburb near one of the blackest cities in the country that—after reviewing all of the facts—she believed the town’s request to separate itself was motivated by race. She stressed that the move could encourage feelings of racial inferiority among the district’s black students. The judge chastised the white citizens for trying to minimize school desegregation laws. Then, with a pound of her gavel, she allowed them to do it anyway.
Fast forward to 2019, two years removed from a ruling that gave Gardendale the green light to essentially pretend like Brown v. Board of Education never happened, and the city will be coughing up roughly $850,000 in legal fees and expenses to the attorneys of black school children as a result of this debacle, according to AL.com
In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Haikala made it rain on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and former federal judge U.W. Clemon, due to Gardendale “acting in bad faith”; both by attempting to establish the district in the first place and during the litigation process.
“Gardendale’s lack of candor regarding its appellate argument is another example of the Gardendale Board’s willingness to take any position that serves its interest in the moment,” the judge ruled. “An award of fees is appropriate to deter others from behaving in a similar fashion.”
And if you think those slick comments folks like to get off on social media don’t have real-world consequences, AL.com notes that they absolutely influenced Haikala’s ruling:
Haikala pointed to messages on social media, including Facebook comments where residents said they did not want Gardendale to become Center Point—a city that was predominantly white as late as the 2000 Census that became majority black in the 2010 Census—and that Gardendale only decided to include children in the predominantly black Birmingham neighborhood of North Smithfield in the prospective school system only to fulfill county desegregation requirements.
“The messages of racial inferiority from the separation organizers and from the Gardendale Board [of Education] were public and unmistakable. It is enough simply to recognize that in its refusal to speak to parents of class members from North Smithfield, the Gardendale Board treated those students as tokens to be numbered and included in a municipal district only if necessary to achieve a court-ordered racial quota,” Haikala wrote. “The message is one of fungibility, like so many commercial goods counted and exchanged. Indeed, one of the separation organizers characterized the eleventh-hour inclusion of the North Smithfield students in the Gardendale municipal district as ‘a price to pay to gain approval for separation.’”
But Haikala wasn’t done there. She also dropped the mic with his final quote:
“Unresolved desegregation cases like this one may look like ‘white-haired’ litigation to some white citizens, but to black citizens—thousands of whom remain members of plaintiff classes—these cases are reminders of the painstaking efforts that black citizens have had to undertake to gain access to public schools that were reserved by law for white citizens.”
She added, “A fee award in this case hopefully will prompt more respectful arguments in the future.”
Cut the check, Gardendale. And do us all a favor and try to be a little less racist in the future.