By William B. Turner
Roy Moore just told the nation that the world was a better place when we still had slavery. According to Moore, back then, families cared about each other.
To state what should be obvious to any thinking person, this is a smack in the face to every African American person in the republic because it says that their experience doesn’t count. Slavery, according to Moore, was okay.
The charitable explanation is simple ignorance. Most people don’t know much about the reality of slavery. The movie, Twelve Years a Slave, did a pretty good job, but it underplayed the brutal violence that was a necessary part of slavery. What would it take to get you to perform menial agricultural labor for zero pay?
But Moore doesn’t deserve our charity. He has consistently expressed opinions that pass for “conservative” in United States. He has exhibited contempt for the United States Constitution, despite taking an oath to uphold and defend it. He has exhibited contempt for the rights of persons he thinks he should disdain. He has served as a high-level official in a state that has recently gone out of its way to secure legal permission to prevent its African American citizens from voting. It is not clear that Moore recognizes African Americans as citizens at all.
If he thinks slavery was okay, then he must not see African Americans as citizens, because they were not considered as such under slavery. We amended the Constitution that Moore has so little respect for to make exactly that point. The same people who wrote and ensured ratification of the thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery, took much the same steps to adopt the fourteenth amendment, which sets a national definition of citizenship and its attendant rights in the United States.
These new rules went mostly unenforced for the first one hundred years of their existence, leaving African Americans no choice but to fight too long and too hard to win minimal recognition of and protection for their rights as citizens. All reasonable people in the United States now recognize that we made huge mistakes in this realm in past, that the problem still exists to some extent, and that we have work to do if we want to live up to the highest promise of our founding.
Roy Moore apparently disagrees. Moore apparently has no problem with continuing to treat African Americans not as equals, not as citizens of the United States as much as he is, but as something else.
His claim is historically ridiculous. He said America was great “when families were united — even though we had slavery….” One of the worst aspects of slavery was precisely that slave owners could and did sell members of slave families without regard for familial relationships, such that parents could see their children sold away and spouses could be separated at the whim of the owner.
Moore does not seem like a very intelligent or well-educated person. Maybe he just doesn’t know that about slavery. But what should be blindingly obvious, especially to a man who has served as a judge and now wants to be a Senator, is that slavery, by definition, was an obvious, galloping, egregious violation of the very principles we claim to rest our republic on. People at the time well knew that. Thomas Jefferson realized it, even though he couldn’t bring himself to act in that realization.
It’s only a small exaggeration to say that Moore seems to want to secede again. Apparently, he does not want to have to live in a United States where all thinking people agree that we should strive to treat our African American friends and neighbors with dignity and respect. They may not think of it that way, but now, anyone who votes for Moore effectively endorses his call to secede again. Moore wants to party like it’s 1859.
And let us be clear: the Republican Party endorses this idea. The Republican Party wrote and ratified the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments. Now the “Party of Lincoln” is becoming the party of secession. My, how times change.
One is tempted to tell them to go. If you really want to be your own, tiny republic, surrounded by the United States and the Gulf of Mexico, be gone. We don’t need you and we’re better off without you.
But a significant number of the people who live in Alabama are African American. It would be cruel and an abandonment of principle to leave them to the mercies of Moore and his supporters with no claim to enforcement of the various laws that still require equal opportunity and treatment regardless of race, however ill-enforced those laws currently are.
It would be abdication of the principles we claim to uphold by our continuing loyalty to our Constitution, however imperfect it may be. At a time when the biggest threats to the republic come from a man who disdains all rules, abandoning the set of rules we have used, more or less successfully, for 228 years looks like a poor choice.
Better instead to make vigorous use of one of those rules, the one that prohibits official restrictions on citizens’ free expression. Better to shout from the rooftops that Roy Moore is a major sleaze ball who exemplifies what is worst – most deplorable, to borrow a term – about the United States. He represents what we would most like to leave behind us. Not to forget, because we need the reminder of what not to be or become, but Moore is an example of what all thinking, civilized members of our society want to disown, cast off, be free of, walk away from as fast as possible.
We want nothing to do with Roy Moore or with anyone who could agree with or support him. We will hold on to Alabama, not to hold Roy Moore, whom we would like to cast away, but to try to protect and help the African Americans who have to live with his baleful influence and example.
Let us also bruit to the heavens the message that the Republican Party has no problem with Roy Moore or his racist, child molesting ways. Moore thinks America was better when old, white men like him could have whatever they wanted, African Americans and teen girls be damned, and the Republican Party agrees.
This is sickening, but it is our reality. We need to loudly make the point, and repeatedly, that support for the Republican Party is support for racism and child molestetion.
We all have the choice.