Category: BirminghamWatch

BirminghamWatch Recommends

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks USPS Operational Changes Amid Concerns About Mail Slowdowns, Election (Washington Post)
University of Alabama Trustees Vote to Rename Hall Honoring ‘Ardent White Supremacist’ (Montgomery Advertiser)
C.D.C.’s Criticized Testing Guidance Was Not Written by Its Scientists (New York Times)
Birmingham Businessman Elton B. Stephens Jr. Kidnapped, Released After Paying Hefty Ransom (AL.com)
How Chris Hastings Approached Reopening of Hot and Hot, Ovenbird (Birmingham Business Journal)
Long Lines for Fuel, Boats Damaged: Coastal Alabama Cleans Up From Sally (AL.com)
‘Forrest Gump’ Author Winston Groom Dead at 77 (Associated Press)

Rage Over “Rage”: Bob Woodward Makes a Debatable Decision

I at first disagreed with the criticism that investigative journalist Bob Woodward should have gone public right away with Donald Trump’s taped interview comments about the deadliness of the coronavirus in early February. Instead, Woodward held them for publication in his book “Rage.”

The claim is that Woodward would have saved lives if the public had known Trump had been lying when he repeatedly downplayed the danger during the virus’ early stages in this country. But after three-plus years of relentless conning and fabricating, I don’t think people still trusting Trump for health information would have believed Woodward anyway. Read more.

This Commentary Is Excellent, According to Sources

President Trump claims The Atlantic “made up” its aghasting Thursday night report that the president has privately referred to dead American soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.” The magazine didn’t, as shown by subsequent confirmations by The Associated Press and other outlets. But it’s harder to refute claims of falseness when, as was the case here, a news organization relies solely on anonymous sources.

“These weak, pathetic, cowardly background ‘sources’ do not have the courage or decency to put their names to these false accusations because they know how completely ludicrous they are,” a former deputy White House press secretary tweeted Thursday night. Even some members of mainstream media, while praising The Atlantic’s reporting, called on the sources in the story to come forward.

Journalists have debated the ethics of this kind of attribution forever. They’ve also used it forever.
Read more.

Racist Textbooks Endured, Presenting Alternate ‘History’ to Alabama Students for 70 Years

Slaves in Alabama could thank their masters for providing them with one of the earliest versions of social security, according to a ninth grade textbook used for more than a decade in public schools.

The textbook — Charles Grayson Summersell’s “Alabama History for Schools” — dismissed realities of slavery, glorified the Confederacy and defended deeds of the Ku Klux Klan.

Summersell’s textbook was the ninth grade companion to Frank L. Owlsey’s “Know Alabama,” written for fourth graders. In addition to repeating much of the same Lost Cause ideology, the two esteemed authors shared similar career paths, which included serving as chair of the history department at the University of Alabama. They influenced tens of thousands of grammar-school children, high school and college students, and professors.

Both authors also drew from predecessors such as Alabama history textbook writers L.D. Miller, Albert B. Moore, L. Lamar Matthews and others for a now-disputed version of history repeated for about seven decades.

Teachers were still using Owsley’s and Summersell’s books after classrooms were widely integrated in the late 1960s, and they continued to use revised editions well into the 1970s. The later editions toned down the contention that slaves were mostly happy and contented. Read more.

More about textbooks with pro-slavery messages used to teach Alabama students.
Textbook ‘Know Alabama’ Justified Slavery, Praised Confederacy to Schoolchildren

Vestiges of the Past Carry Ingrained Racism Into the Modern Age

Vestiges of segregation still thread through the systems and processes with which we engage throughout our lives, influencing Black Alabamians in large and small ways, including economic opportunities and lifetime wealth, relationship with law enforcement, health care and even projected lifespan. BirminghamWatch has an ongoing effort to analyze how these sometimes unrecognized vestiges of segregation are playing out in people’s lives today. Read stories in The Legacy of Race series.

With Huge Stakes, Maybe Media Will Cover Campaigns Right This Time

Donald Trump has presided over multiple crises in America, but don’t forget that Joe Biden has said some stupid things during campaign speeches.

I have just engaged in a prevalent failing of the mainstream political press: false equivalency, which means to give a similar volume of attention to two dissimilar and unequal sets of facts in order to appear fair and balanced. You might recall “But her emails…” from the presidential campaign coverage of 2016.

As we head toward an obviously monumental presidential election on Nov. 3, nonpartisan political reporters are doing their best to avoid their highly consequential mistakes of 2016 and some previous election cycles. With such a stark contrast between the two presumptive nominees – uh oh, I may have just engaged in the also common press failing of tempered euphemism – the stakes couldn’t be higher for the performance of the press over the next three months.
Read more.

Business Capital, Knowledge Remain Out of Reach for Many Minority Entrepreneurs

The economic downturn in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered many Birmingham businesses for good. But in the 4th Avenue and Civil Rights commercial districts, none of the 56 black-owned businesses that work with Urban Impact, an economic development organization for those districts, have gone out of business.

Urban Impact Strategic Growth Manager Elijah Davis said that unusual success “is a true testament to their spirit.”

“We are always resilient and innovative people,” Davis said.

That resilience is needed for entrepreneurs of color. Both in Birmingham and nationwide, black-owned businesses are less common and less successful, on average, than white-owned businesses. Read more.

More on The Legacy of Race: Economic Barriers

An Unequal Inheritance: On the Whole, Black Families Start With Less and Stay Behind, Leaving Less For Succeeding Generations

Infrastructure Decisions, Property Valuation, Investment and Hiring Practices Build a Gap Between Black and White Household Wealth

Textbook ‘Know Alabama’ Justified Slavery, Praised Confederacy to Schoolchildren

The year was 1961.

As the Freedom Riders crossed the South in their fight for civil rights, schoolchildren in Alabama were reading about the bright side of slavery and the contributions of the Ku Klux Klan.

They were taught these lessons from “Know Alabama,” the standard fourth-grade history textbook in the state’s public schools. The book informed baby boomers and Generation Xers from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. Some of those students became the teachers who taught subsequent generations.

Both white and Black children were instructed from “Know Alabama” that plantation life was a joyous time and slaves were generally contented. They read that Confederates were brave heroes, and Reconstruction was a terrible time when carpetbaggers, scalawags and illiterate Blacks corrupted the state.

Today, with factions across Alabama caught up in a clash over the meaning of Confederate monuments and symbols, many are debating the true history of the South. Is it the version that Black Lives Matter protesters shout in the public square or the story taught in Southern schools during and after the fight over segregation?
Read more.

Infrastructure Decisions, Property Valuation, Investment and Hiring Practices Build a Gap Between Black and White Household Wealth

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— The Declaration of Independence

The founding fathers artfully crafted the phrasing that among the unalienable rights due all men is the pursuit of happiness. Part of that pursuit comes in one’s ability to get a job, develop a career, build wealth through an honest wage and establish a home. Many Black Americans have found that pursuit stymied by forces often beyond their control.

According to an article published by The Hamilton Project of Brookings Institute, the net worth of a typical white family was $171,000 in 2016, nearly 10 times the $17,150 net worth of a Black family.
The report said that gaps in wealth between Black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception. Read more.

An Unequal Inheritance: On the Whole, Black Families Start With Less and Stay Behind, Leaving Less For Succeeding Generations

Children’s inheritance from their parents includes so much more than just a monetary bequest in a will. It can also encompass the gift of a college education, support starting a business or buying a home, financial know-how or a family business.

That inheritance starts at birth. Black families, which on average accumulate less wealth in the U.S. than white families, often have less to pass down to the next generation.

The Institute for Policy Studies reported in 2019 that the median Black family in America owns $3,600, about 2% of the $147,000 owned by the median white family. After adjusting for inflation, “the median Black family saw their wealth drop by more than half” from 1983 to 2016, while the median white family’s wealth accumulation increased by a third, according to the study.

“When you think about how wealth is built over time, typically the way wealth has been built is through property ownership,” REV Birmingham Director of Recruitment and Business Growth Taylor Clark Jacobson said. “That is a ladder to privilege and access.” Read more.