50 years later, Alabama, nation aren’t there yet

Published 11:56 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In recent weeks, Alabama has commemorated many events in our history from the Civil Rights era, and much has been written about how far we’ve come.

We have marked the 50th anniversary of George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama, and celebrated that campus’s current diversity.

Just this past weekend, hundreds of people, both black and white, many holding hands, filled Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church to remember the four little girls who died in a race-incited bombing, also 50 years ago.

Attorney General Eric Holder was part of the ceremonies, and called the girls’ deaths “a seminal and tragic moment” in U.S. history and recalled gains that followed their killings like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

We like to think that things have changed since those dark days in our history, and in some ways, they have.

But just last week, the University of Alabama’s student newspaper, The Crimson White, reported the story of a top-notch African-American student, the step-granddaughter of a respected member of that institution’s board of trustees, being cut from sorority rush on the basis of race. That the decision was made by alumni advisers against the wishes of current sorority members gives us hope for change in the future, but ugly evidence that racism lives on.

UA President Judy Bonner just yesterday released a video statement to UA supporters that the sorority bidding process was being reopened after she met with advisors from each Panhellenic sorority on Sunday night.

In the midst of that negative publicity, we note that the problem with racism is not confined, by any stretch of the imagination, to Alabama nor to the Deep South. The reactions of some to the crowning of Miss America Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American, were despicable.

The population of “white” or Anglo Americans is declining both the nation and the South. Hispanic population growth is outpacing other races, and immigration continues to make our population more diverse.

We were founded as a melting pot of all people who chose to come here for religious freedom and for economic opportunities.

Yes, we have come a long way since the Wallace stand and the Birmingham bombings helped usher in the Voting Rights Act. But we still have a very long way to go.