Talk of secession not helping Alabama’s success

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First, there was the Alabama Values and States’ Rights Commission. Now, there is a petition on the Web seeking for Alabama to secede from the United States. As state leaders talk about improving the state’s image, or failing to do so with the failure of an amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot that would have removed racist language from the Alabama Constitution, efforts like these cannot be helpful in changing stereotypes about Alabama. With the commission, obviously an effort to reach out to the Republican base, there could have been a better name. In the minds of many, like it or not, the term “state’s rights” is negatively tied to the 1860s, slavery and the Civil War.

A Mobile resident created a petition on the White House’s “We The People” site Nov. 9 petitioning the Obama administration to “Peacefully grant the State of Alabama to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.” The petition is on there with others seeking to recount the election, stop drone strikes, regulate pornography on the Web, and other grassroots efforts.

Almost 21,000 people had signed the petition by 1 p.m. Tuesday (about triple the number of people who had signed the petition by the same time on Monday as more people read about the petitions). The petition needs 25,000 signatures within a month to garner an official response from the White House and Alabama’s should hit that number soon. However, many of those signing the petition do not live in Alabama.

And the Alabama petition is very similar to those on the site from other states, including South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado. As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, people had started petitions for 36 states. And some states have more than one.

While some of those states, including Alabama, decidedly voted against Obama in the election, others voted overwhelmingly for Obama to serve another four years.

The petition references the words of the founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive.”

Besides some other obvious issues with the petition, such as the fact a state cannot unilaterally withdraw from the union (U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Texas v. White), Alabama would turn from a poor state into a poor nation.

According to an Aug. 1, 2011, piece in The Economist, Alabama sent $340.1 billion in federal taxes to Washington from 1990 to 2009, but received $630.8 billion in federal spending.

According to a February 2012 article from Mother Jones, Alabama is sixth among the states and Washington, D.C., in receiving the most federal funding per tax dollar paid at $2.03.

Meanwhile, there is still language in the Alabama Constitution about poll taxes and about segregated schools. And there are legal questions about the racist language in the Constitution because people in the state tried to evade the desegregation ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. And repeatedly, Alabama has had to have the federal government force its hand to integrate the state, to allow minority groups to vote and participate in elections, and to ride buses.

Agree or not – like it or not –Alabama has a reputation as a racist and intolerant state. And while I do not care for it, the national media tends to focus on stories in Alabama about race, poverty, and religion. And talk of succession harkens back to memories of a dark time in this nation’s history and opens the state for yet more unnecessary criticism.

Whether it is with commissions on state’s rights, asinine petitions, or legislation targeted at illegal immigration that state officials are still fighting to uphold even though the hopes for some portions of that legislation making it through the court system are microscopic, some state leaders and state residents are not helping the cause of moving Alabama and its image into the 21st century. And there are success stories in Alabama including the recruitment of industry and gains in test scores.

So, while the petition will be unsuccessful, and could just be symbolic for those angry with Obama, his policies and his reelection, it does nothing but perpetuate unfortunate stereotypes about a state that has worked for decades to overhaul its image.

–– Sebastian Kitchen

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