|"Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA|
For eight years (2003-2011), such groups had a friendly ear in Alabama, thanks to former GOP governor Bob Riley, who has family ties to the KKK. In fact, an issue that reared its ugly head multiple times during Riley's tenure, when seen in light of the recent violence in Charlottesville, provides a classic example of the dishonesty at the heart of white hate groups.
It should be no surprise that Alabama was well represented at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville. A racist gathering wouldn't be complete without Alabama representatives front and center. That would be like a wiener roast without the wienies.
The purpose of the Charlottesville rally supposedly was the protect a statute of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in a public park. In other words, the white nationalists portrayed themselves as preservationists, trying to ensure that Confederate history did not fade from view.
But for a significant chunk of the 2000s, at least, such groups in Alabama have tried to go way beyond that role; they actively have tried to block efforts to preserve civil-rights history in Alabama and other Southern states. They weren't just trying to preserve Confederate history, they were trying to destroy civil-rights history; they essentially sought to re-write history in a way that would wipe out the efforts of those who fought against hate and racism -- and for equal justice.
The thugs who sparked the violent rally in Charlottesville apparently did not spotlight that part of their ugly past. That's what we mean about dishonesty. In Alabama, Bob Riley was the perfect dishonest, neo-Confederate governor. And the racists held Riley's ugly family history over his head.
This is from a previous Legal Schnauzer post, titled "Former Alabama governor Bob Riley has family ties to KKK, CCC, and other prominent hate groups":
Former Alabama governor Bob Riley has family connections to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), and other extremist groups, sources tell Legal Schnauzer. While governor, Riley backed down from a plan to merge two holidays when angry neo-Confederate groups threatened to go public with his family history.
Riley's father, Eustace Riley Jr. (grandfather of Birmingham attorneys Rob Riley and Minda Riley Campbell), was a KKK Grand Dragon in the small Clay County community of Ashland, according to our sources. The Rileys also have long-standing ties to the CCC, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The CCC's Web site reportedly inspired Dylann Roof to enter a historically black church in June 2015 and shoot and kill nine people. Bob Riley has tried to steer clear of his ties to such ugliness. It hasn't always worked. From our previous post:
Riley now heads a lobbying firm called Bob Riley and Associates, with offices in Birmingham and Montgomery. He has started a Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO), which provides money for students to attend private schools. Riley's SGO is one of a dozen created under the Alabama Accountability Act, a controversial school-choice law passed by the Legislature in 2013.
Why would Riley favor the use of tax credits from public-school revenues to help send kids to private schools? One answer might be money. The law allows an SGO to keep 5 percent of the maximum $25 million in tax-credited donations. Critics say more than $1 million could wind up in Riley's pocket each year.
Riley also might favor private schools because of his family's ties to white-supremacist groups. This was an issue several times while Riley was governor. It was widely reported in fall 2006 that Riley was a member of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama, a secret society governed by documents that forbid membership to "negroes or other inferior races." Birmingham radio hosts Russ and Dee Fine were fired after reporting on Riley's ties to a racist group.
In one report, Riley claimed he had not attended a lodge meeting since he was in his 20s, and he did not know the head of the masons in Alabama. That doesn't make much sense in light of a widely circulated photo of Riley with Grand Master Frank W. Little.
What about white nationalists' efforts to whitewash Alabama history. Riley was in the middle of that, consistently siding with the racists:
In 2004, the executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission resigned because of differences with his board of directors and Gov. Riley over his support for civil-rights preservation projects. Here is how the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described the resignation of Lee Warner in a winter 2004 report:
|Bob Riley and Masonic leader|
Frank W. Little
The episode was only the latest of the last several years in which museum professionals and preservation officials from around the South have come under sometimes severe pressure from neo-Confederate activists and their sympathizers, occasionally including harassment and various kinds of threats.
In case after case, members of groups like the League of the South and the Sons of Confederate Veterans have agitated against these professionals in a bid to push versions of history that mainstream curators and historians agree are bunk. . . .
And in Alabama, Lee Warner, the former Alabama Historical Commission executive director, told a reporter that many of Riley's appointees to the commission had opposed his plans to create a museum at the old Greyhound bus station, where Freedom Riders were badly beaten in 1961, and to memorialize the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march."
With such "leadership" at the executive level, Alabama provided fertile soil for white supremacy to take root. One of the featured speakers at the Charlottesville rally was Michael Hill, co-founder and president of the Killen, AL-based League of the South. In the days leading up to the Charlottesville event, Hill rattled on about the need of Southern nationalists to secede from the Union. From an Associated Press article on the subject:
The League of the South's longtime president, retired university professor Michael Hill of Killen, Alabama, posted a message in July that began, "Fight or die white man" and went on to say Southern nationalists seek "nothing less than the complete reconquest and restoration of our patrimony -- the whole, entire South."
"And that means the South will once again be in name and in actuality White Man's Land. A place where we and our progeny can enjoy Christian liberty and the fruits of our own labor, unhindered by parasitical 'out groups,'" said Hill's message, posted on the group's Facebook page a day after a rally in support of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Gee, that doesn't sound the least bit racist, does it? And remember, where you find racism, you almost certainly will find dishonesty. Some seemingly have decided that the combination of those two factors makes Southern secession not such a bad idea:
Perhaps the United States should just let the South leave, said author Chuck Thompson.
Thompson's 2012 book "Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession" argued that both the United States and the South might both be best served if Southern nationalists won the argument and succeeded in forming a new nation.
The South has been at odds with the rest of the nation for generations over issues including education, race, politics, shared history and religion, Thompson said in a telephone interview, and some things just don't change.
"It's not that just the rest of the country would be better off without them," he said. "It's that everyone would be better off without them, both sides."
The problem, of course, is that Southern thinking no longer is limited to the South. I currently reside in Springfield, MO, where I grew up, and I think racism here has come to equal or exceed that found in Alabama. Voting patterns show that racist, Southern thinking has come to hold sway in large sections of the Midwest, Great Plains, Southwest, and Pacific Northwest.
What is the only state, in the 2008 presidential election, that did not have a single county go for Barack Obama? Answer: Oklahoma.
If the South is going to secede, we need to make sure the region takes with it Southern "thinkers" from non-Southern states. As we have written here several times, white elites in Alabama have formed an under-the-radar "New Confederacy." It's likely that similar schemes have infected public institutions -- courts, police forces, law firms, financial systems, and more -- in other states.
Southern elites will tell you they are trying to preserve a "way of life." In fact, they are creating a rigged system that benefits them, to the detriment of everyone else.
We don't need their racism, and we don't need their dishonesty.