You can’t have community without unity, but as Glenn Beck taught us this weekend, I guess you CAN have unity without community. Well, you can appear to anyway.
With carefully placed camera angles, t-shirts quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, an abundance of posters displaying the words justice and unity on them along with pictures of Abraham Lincoln, and, finally, the premiere of a movie about the desegregation of our public schools, Mr. Beck managed to fabricate a ‘unity’ march smack dab in the middle of Birmingham, Alabama. Yes, Birmingham, Alabama, the democratic cradle of the least blue state in the country.
While operating in ‘stealth mode’ Glenn Beck managed to pull off a march with upwards of 20,000 people, of which a huge majority were white, in a city that is 73% black, leaving the city scratching its head wondering “What the he** just happened?”
Now is the time I’d normally stand and shout ‘Bravo…BRAVO!’ while clapping wildly for such a well-executed piece of theatre, but not this time. This time I just feel sick to my stomach.
Not because the crowd was almost entirely white, certainly not because he’s a republican, and not even because it appears a majority of them were from out of state. (Remember, Dr. King was considered an ‘outside agitator’ himself here in Alabama.)
What has me sick to my stomach is the fact that they USED issues of race relations, both past and present, as a FUNDRAISER to help Christians in the Middle East. Now, don’t get me wrong, if anyone wants to raise money for that then by all means please do, but don't come to the heart of the civil rights movement and hijack the narrative about race relations to make money for a totally different cause. A person has to wonder why Bishop Lowe from Guiding Light Church went along with this plan.
I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Beck to Bishop Lowe: “We know your city suffered badly during the civil rights struggle but it’s over now so let us show this movie about one of your last all white schools to desegregate, you know, Woodlawn, the one that was next door to the Eastview 13 Klavern where the Klan met. Aren’t they the ones that bombed the church? Anyway…..the movie fades to black after the newly desegregated football team wins and everyone is cheering. We will ignore the fact that all 44 of your schools are now high poverty schools and are 95% students of color. I heard you have some schools with mold problems, lead paint, damaged roofs and no new books in the libraries since 2008, that’s too bad! We'll bring 20,000 of our white friends, you provide a couple of hundred people of color and we'll raise money to help Christians that are being persecuted the Middle East. Cool?”
Bishop Lowe: “Ok.”
Beck: “We are going to say it’s about Unity, people really eat that stuff up. We’ll be using the Republican presidential candidates to mobilize the white folks. Which reminds me…DON'T TELL any other people of color in Birmingham about this, just bring your church members. We want it to be a surprise!”
Oh, and speaking of surprises, it seems former President George W. Bush recently performed his own stealth theatrics on the people of Birmingham. He popped up at an event for the Lakeshore Foundation on Thursday. No media, cell phones or cameras were allowed. I wonder if he had brunch with Mr. Beck while he was here. Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz was recently here, too. Makes a person wonder what all this interest in Birmingham from the Republican Party is all about, doesn’t it.
Obviously, this event wasn’t about unity and race issues. They only tied it to those issues to get a buy in from the Guiding Light Church. It wasn’t even about the screening of Woodlawn. The two men that created the movie live right here in Birmingham and they never even advertised it on their Woodlawn FB page, or anywhere else I could find. If it were about the fundraiser, well, they could have done that anywhere, why go to all of the trouble to mask it as a ‘unity’ march? The only thing we have left to draw from this is that Glenn Beck was hell bent on flexing his republican muscle here in Birmingham Alabama.
Could it be they are worried about the republican grip loosening in Alabama? Between the daily drama at the Governor’s mansion, the ethics trial of Rep. Mike Hubbard, the failure of our Republican led House and Senate to pass a budget, and with the growing strength of the Tea Party dividing the conservative vote, could they actually be concerned that the citizens of Alabama are going to finally say ENOUGH and begin to rally around candidates that TRULY represent THEM and maybe, actually, begin to get democrats elected back into office?
The Democrats shouldn’t allow this fake unity march to disenfranchise them any further, instead it should be used as a wakeup call alerting them to the fact that the status quo is changing and NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT. Every attempt should be made to be proactive in this changing climate, not reactive.
Along those lines I’d like to officially invite Sen. Bernie Sanders to join the citizens of Alabama during the upcoming special called session to rally against ALEC, and other corporate interests, and against the legislators that have been bought off by them. The way I look at it, getting Sen. Bernie Sanders to attend a rally here should be easier than Glenn Beck pulling off a fake unity rally!!
Follow the Storming the Statehouse event on FB to stay up to date on all of the events during this second special called session or call 256-679-7135 or 334-549-5864 for more info.
Terri Michal has been a resident of Alabama for 27 years. She is the state admin for the Alabama BATs, a National Admin for the Badass Teacher Association, and Co-Chairs Moral Monday Alabama. She advocates for students and teachers by fighting against the ‘reform’ movement that seeks the privatization of our public schools. Find her Facebook page, Support Our Students, to learn more.