Category: Best of BirminghamWatch 2021
BirminghamWatch this week is revisiting its best and most popular work from 2021 in a series of packages on Race and Hate Crime, the COVID-19 Pandemic and Politics.
Race and Hate Crime
Alabama Population Shrinks Under Weight of COVID-19 Deaths
For the first time in the history of Alabama, COVID-19 last year pushed the state’s death rate higher than the birthrate.
“The state population is shrinking, and we have never seen that happen before in the history of Alabama,” Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Wednesday.
In fact, more people died in Alabama last year than any other year on record.
The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that 7,181 people died from COVID-19 last year.
So far this year, there have been 5,603 COVID deaths, according to the ADPH. The combined number of deaths from COVID for 2020 and 2021 reported Wednesday is 12,784.
The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama stated in a report earlier this year that, if earlier Census estimates were accurate, “The trend of deaths exceeding births in Alabama will happen again in 2021.”
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‘For everything there is a season’: Richard Shelby Declines Senate Reelection Run in 2022
Sen. Richard Shelby, who has represented Alabama in the United States Congress since 1979 and in the Senate since 1987, has decided that his sixth and current term will be his last.
Shelby made the announcement on the Senate floor Monday and released it through his official Senate website. It was a call that many political observers in Alabama had expected when the Democrats took the majority after winning Georgia’s two Senate seats in runoff elections early in January.
“For everything there is a season,” Shelby said to begin his speech.
“I have done my best to address challenges and find ways to improve the day-to-day lives of all Americans. I have also focused on the economic challenges of Alabamians, increasing access to education and promoting facilities to improve the quality of schools.
“I have worked to enhance Alabama’s role in space exploration and the security of our nation. Further, I have supported the utilization of Alabama’s greatest resources, including its unparalleled river system and the Port of Mobile.”
As the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Shelby used his political muscle to steer federal funds to his home state. Recently, he has used his influence to try to move the U.S. Space Command headquarters to Huntsville. But the GOP loss of the majority cost Shelby his role as chairman of the committee, and much of the influence that goes with it.
Over his six terms, Shelby has served as either chairman or vice chairman — depending on which party held the majority at the time — of the Appropriations, Rules, Banking and Intelligence committees. Read more.
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Lady Justice Is Not Wearing a Blindfold
In 1996, Jerald Sanders, a Black man and resident of Alabama, used his pocket knife to tear a hole in a front porch screen so he could steal a bicycle stored inside.
When apprehended a few weeks later, Sanders was charged with burglary in the first degree, a Class C felony.
Because Sanders had multiple prior offenses on his record, his sentence was pushed to life in prison without parole. A Class C felony often results in a fine or minimal jail time.
Sanders’ story is not rare. Black men are sentenced to prison time that reflects not only the crime for which they are being sentenced, but for their entire criminal history. According to statistics from the Sentencing Project, Blacks are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. Read more.
Alabama is Home to 20 Hate Groups, 838 Operate Nationwide, SPLC Says
Twenty Alabama groups have been categorized as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center among 838 nationwide. Read more.
A Lack of Hate or Lack of Reporting?: Alabama Has Reported Zero Hate Crimes in the Past Two Years
On April 9, 2020, the Etz Chayim Synagogue in Huntsville was defaced with antisemitic graffiti. The following day, the Chabad of Huntsville was vandalized with similar hate speech. Security footage taken from both scenes indicates the same perpetrator committed both crimes. Given that they took place on the first night of the Jewish holiday Passover, the crimes are thought to be meticulously planned and executed with one purpose: to send a message of hate to the Jewish community.
Mayor Tommy Battle released a statement to the public saying “the city of Huntsville condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms” and emphasized Huntsville as a city of inclusivity and acceptance. “Any offense against one is an offense against all,” Battle said. The case has since been handed over to the FBI, and no perpetrator has been caught.
Despite these attacks against the Jewish community the state of Alabama has reported zero hate crimes to the FBI’s annual Unified Crime Report for the past two years in a row. It is the only state in the country that has reported zero hate crimes.
“It is highly implausible that in 2019 or 2018, no hate crimes were committed in Alabama. Of the over 417 law enforcement agencies in the state, only two actually participated in the 2019 reporting process to the FBI, which is deeply troubling and undoubtedly means that many hate crimes have gone unreported,” said Dr. Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southern Division. >Read more.