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Analysis | Important for Tuberville’s race comments: He represents Alabama

The Auburn University Tigers won 13-0 in 2004, one of the best seasons in the school’s history. But they were kicked out of the championship after finishing the season in third, a decision that coach Tommy Tuberville loudly and often disapproved of. Even ten years later, after transferring to the University of Cincinnati, Tuberville expressed frustration with the season’s result.

But Tuberville itself came out of the season well positioned. He was named Coach of the Year and was given a new seven-year contract that paid him $2 million a year in salary and endorsements. Leading one of Alabama’s top programs to national glory, Tuberville became something of a legend in the state.

However, he did not repeat that success at Auburn in the years to come. Of course, unlike the NFL, college football relies on a rotating pool of players working their way through college. And that 2004 team had some exceptional players—four who were drafted into the NFL in the first round and three others who would eventually go on to play in the NFL’s Pro Bowl.

Relevant for the moment: All seven of those players, the ones who helped Tuberville cement his legacy, were black.

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Tuberville was elected to the Alabama Senate in 2020, easily ousting incumbent Democratic Doug Jones. He earned Donald Trump’s approval and quickly established himself as unshakably loyal to the president. Even before he was in the Senate, he announced his intention to object to the results of the 2020 presidential contest.

So on Saturday, Tuberville was offered a speaking engagement at Trump’s rally for Republican candidates in Nevada. And in that speech, he falsely claimed that Democrats support criminal activity.

“Some people say, well, they’re soft on crime. No, they are not soft on crime. They are pro-criminal. They want crime, “Tuberville wrongly” claimed, to applaud. “They want crime because they want to take over what you have. They want to check what you have. They want compensation because they think the people who commit the crime owe it.”

“Recovery” has, of course, a specific meaning in the context of American politics: the idea that providing monetary or other benefits to black Americans could help dismantle the long-term effects of centuries of slavery to black people. In other words, Tuberville is clearly suggesting that “the people who commit the crime” are black, in addition to the fact that the entire Democratic Party thinks violence and theft are acceptable proxies to address systemic racial divides.

Of course, putting Democrats in the most toxic, negative light is standard for right-wing politicians in particular. But Tuberville dropped that other idea: that crime is a function of black Americans. It’s a grotesque, racist proposal by anyone. That certainly applies more to a sitting US senator. And even more so from someone whose celebrity depended on the unpaid work of college athletes, many of whom were black.

But it’s also important from a senator from Alabama. This is one of the leading government officials in the state, someone who does not have a long track record in state politics, but someone who nevertheless literally represents the state on the national stage. And his position is that black people are “committing the crime.”

Alabama was in the news recently for a different reason. The state is challenging a district court’s ruling that the way it drew congressional lines in the wake of the 2020 census violated the Voting Rights Act. That challenge came before the Supreme Court in the case Merrill v. Milligan, with judges hearing pleadings last week. The state, which had won seven seats in the House, drew district lines that created a district in which half the population was black — a tactic known as “packing.” With so many black voters in one district, there are fewer in the other six, reducing the chances of those districts electing Democrats (given how strongly democratic those black voters are) and thereby decreasing the chances of another black representative running the election. wins. In a state that is about a quarter black.

The Voting Rights Act exists because of systemic efforts, mostly in southern states like Alabama, to bar black voters from participating in electoral politics in the decades before the civil rights movement. In an amicus briefing submitted by a group of Alabama historians, the lingering effects of both slavery and historical restrictions on political power are thoroughly documented. But state leaders and lawmakers would rather send six Republicans to Washington, and if the Voting Rights Act (stumbled in 2013 on dubious grounds that it was no longer needed) gets in the way, so be it.

Meanwhile, Alabama state prisoners recently launched a work stoppage, protesting the conditions in the facilities. The Justice Department filed suit against the state in December 2020, claiming that the state “has violated and continues to violate the Constitution because its prisons are littered with violence from inmates and guards.”

Speaking to the New Yorker, journalist Beth Shelburne explained that “the problems of overcrowding, understaffing, violence and corruption are fundamental to our carceral system and are in every prison and prison in the United States, but in Alabama they are all on the run.” gait. steroids.”

This disproportionately affects black people because they are overrepresented in the state prison population (as in most states). Shelburne attributes this to the overrepresentation of “people most affected by…lack of social services, poor education and widespread poverty” and who tend to be “politicians who don’t care” – which often means , in Alabama, black people . (See the amicus briefing above.)

Enter the junior state senator. At a rally hosted by the former president, he suggested that crime isn’t just committed by blacks, but that Democrats encourage the idea so that black people can “take over what you’ve got” — formulating the idea not only in grotesque racial and political terms but also as a specific threat to his almost exclusively white audience.

The point of black activists’ recent focus on race in political conversation has been to draw attention to ways in which racism manifests itself not as people wearing blackface—as the Alabama governor did in college—but as embedded, structural biases. against black Americans. Things like disproportionate jail time or unequal representation.

But sometimes racial animosity manifests itself as a US senator blaming black people for crime.

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