Since it was chartered in 1965, the NAACP Tri County Branch has been recognized as a leading organization the Shoals area. Through over fifty years of service, this branch has advocated for those whose civil rights have been infringed upon, and educated local citizens about issues that matter to the betterment of all of our lives. Today, the Tri County Branch is constantly working to present valuable information to its members and supporters at our monthly meetings held on the second Thursday of each month. Those meetings are open to the public and all are welcome to be involved with the organization. We invite you to tune in to our weekly radio program, airing Sundays at 8:30am on WZZA Radio.
We very much appreciate the designers of our NAACP Tri County website, a group of brilliant young men called “Team Blundercats” who were under the guidance of University of North Alabama CIS Professor Dr. Barry Cumbie. Our branch thanks the members of the team:
Andrew Bullard, Project Manager & Communication Manager
Jordan Calvo, Lead Web Designer
Kyle Crown, Development and Document Building Support
and certainly Dr. Barry Cumbie, CIS 486 Professor, Project Facilitator
Our country, and our communities, are being purposely divided by those who do not have at heart the best interest of people of color, nor of those who are economically disadvantaged (or who are not as "advantaged" as the one percent), nor of anyone they consider to be "other".
We have been led to be intolerant of one another. We have forgotten how to disagree agreeably, or at least civilly. We have been made distrustful of - and even hateful toward - our neighbors, our friends, even our family members. We've been pitted against each other by those who would throw rocks and hide their hands.
There must be a motive for this. There has to be a reason why some would deliberately use hateful rhetoric, make false accusations and allegations, spread misinformation, sow seeds of chaos. It has been said that it is because there are some paranoid people who want to gain and maintain control of the three branches of government as protection in advance of the year 2040, when Black and Brown people are slated to outnumber White people. Others are simply nostalgic for the days when they could do whatever they wanted to anyone who didn't look, or think, or behave, as they did.
This unrest, this fear, this sense of entitlement and disregard for others has been building for years. The wood for the fire was being gathered. All that was needed was a match.
When Sarah Palin was selected as the running mate to Republican presidential nominee John McCain, it turned out to be a pre-cursur to the public's willingness to accept an unapologetically uneducated, unprepared (and unwilling to improve), candidate for no other justification than political party. McCain was running against, Barack Obama whom - if elected - would become the first African American. He wanted also to be part of a history making election, and had they won Palin would have been the first female vice president. And Palin - on the surface - seemed to be viable choice. She was, after all, the governor of Alaska. That alone might cause one to forgive the McCain team for thinking that she was somewhat qualified.
Unfortunately for them, and for the Republican party, Sarah Palin turned out to be deliberately ignorant. I say deliberately because she rebelled when they tried to teach her the basics. She complained about the "lame stream media" and yet couldn't name the newspapers she claimed to have read. She didn't understand basic geography (and apparently thought she could see Russia from Alaska). She didn't understand evolution and criticized science. She considered Obama's intelligence to be a bad thing and had the nerve to make fun of it. Rather than provide thoughtful answers and engage in serious conversation during the Vice Presidential debate with Joe Biden, she chose to dodge questions and be "folksy". She actually winked at the viewers.
Americans wanted more substance, and were unwilling - at least at that time - to entrust the running of our country to that kind of silliness. And that is why Sarah Palin is a large part of the reason that McCain lost. So I thought that Americans would never again settle for a person who was clearly unqualified. Then along came Trump to prove that some Americans are fine with ignorance and dishonesty and low morals after all. Turns out Palin was just another log on the fire that was to become.
I monitor news and activities from various sources, nationally and locally. There has been an obvious and, sadly, successful attempt to divide us. There are certain "hot button" topics intentionally meant to incite us, to rile us, into being angry with one another. But we don't have to hate someone simply because we disagree with that person. More than once, someone has called me to suggest that I should use our radio station to discredit or destroy those they don't like. I have usually declined to do so. That choice was made because we know that there is much to be said for communication. When we actually hear what the other person is saying, we'll often find that we have more in common than that which divides us. But that requires us to actually communicate: to hear others as much as we want others to hear us.
Social media can be a double edged sword. It can be used to connect us with loved ones, raise money for or awareness about a noble cause. It can pull like-minded people together, united in purpose. But it can also be used against us. Much of what we read, that angers or upsets us, may have been stories planted to pit us against one another. When the movie Black Panther came out, there were fake photos of White people saying they were beaten by Black people who saw the movie. How ridiculous. There still exists some insane QAnon conspiracies, some of which accuse Democrats of being cannibals. How ridiculous.
After the election of President Barack Obama, a local businessman told me he would need to stop advertising because he was about to lose money. He didn't. And eventually he resumed advertising. Another person, a member of our local media, told me that if Democrats prevailed, the United States would turn to first socialism and then Marxism. (Also ridiculous because a unified uprising of the poor against the rich would require the poor to actually band together, something unlikely to occur when we live in a nation yet to conquer racism. Lots of poor folks (mostly White) voted for Trump - who was born rich.)
I visited the page of one of our local Republican groups, hoping to see remorse, or denunciation of the acts of sedition in Washington DC on January 6th. Instead, I found that some of our local people had made plans to travel there to be part of it. One of our local elected state representatives had written a letter demanding that other elected Republicans join him in falsely claiming that the November Presidential election was rigged. (This silliness in spite of the Republican courts ruling otherwise.) And one local party leader, rather than say this violation of our nation's capital should not have happened, instead used the opportunity to blame the "other side" and announce plans to go after the three remaining White Colbert County Democrats still holding county wide elected office. It doesn't seem to matter that they're doing a good job. It only matters that they are Democrats. That alone is enough to make them victims of vilification. So sometimes social media (including, but not limited to platforms such as Parler), can be used as logs, branches, twigs to build the fire.
As a media professional, it was clear to me from the start that Trump was receiving more than his share of attention. At WZZA Radio, I actually placed a limit on the frequency that Trump's name could be said on our station. It was clear that the free publicity not only helped to market him, and made him a contender in an election for a position he was not qualified to hold, but also helped him and his co-conspirators to spread lies and misinformation. Trump, and his enablers, questioned without merit the birthplace of our President. That worked so they escalated the level of lies to unprecedented levels. It has even reached the point where it did not matter how ridiculous the lie was, there were those who either were uneducated enough to believe it, or those who chose to go along with it even when they knew it was a lie because it served their purposes. Not just his circle did this. Fox psuedo-news joined in (perhaps for the ratings).
That was bad enough, but then those who definitely knew better, such as Rudy Gulianni, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, William Barr, and many others, began to play along, not because they believed Hillary Clinton was abducting and trafficking children, or conspiring with Russians, or that Democrats were all sinful baby-killers, but because it was convenient for them. Helping to spread Trump's lies about everything up and until the so-called rigged election, served their purposes - to overtake the three branches on all levels of government. It did not matter whether the people they supported for office were qualified to serve. It only mattered whether they were Republican. And not just any kind of Republican but one which was willing to be loyal to their cause. This was more firewood for the flame.
It is easy to understand that many choose the easiest path rather than the righteous one. It can be tough to speak an uncomfortable truth, to face the censure of your neighbors, fellow church members, or even family members and friends. But when you allow the fringe element to be the voice and controlling force of your party, then you have ceded the high ground.
When you tell me that you're still the same person but that you had to switch political parties because otherwise you would not be elected, and then rather than promote yourselves to the constituents whose votes you need make your party into something to be proud of, and rather than control who goes on the ballot, and not allow the fringe element speak for you, then you've become weak.
When it reaches the point where the heads of ALL THREE BRANCHES of our Republican controlled Alabama government had been proven to be so corrupt that they were removed from office (by members of their own party), and you still think that you must align yourself with them not because they are the party of right, but because they are the party of white, then you've shown a lack of integrity and lost your moral compass.
But when you know better, and still turn your back on truth, and vilify those among you who would tell it by labeling them as Republicans In Name Only or RINOs, when you ridicule those you formerly rallied behind because they have the nerve to say the emperor is naked (as Republicans have done to Mitt Romney); when you help to rile up a gang of insurrectionists to the point where you would sacrifice the life of your own vice president; when you justify every wrong for no other reason than to achieve and maintain power; then you have become an accessory to the crime. No one has the luxury of simply observing from the sidelines. This affects all of us. There are two choices. Be part of the solution, or you are part of the problem.
When I say to you that Black Lives Matter, and you term me a terrorist and attempt to lump me in with Antifa (a group I'd never even heard of until rather recently), then you are deflecting. And deflection is just another way to tell a lie. When I say to you that Black Lives Matter and you deliberately interpret that to mean I'm saying that White lives don't matter, then you're either pretending to be obtuse or you are have been bamboozled by those who would manipulate your thinking for their own purposes.
When I watch Black and Brown people being treated as less than human, being stripped of dignity and civil rights, and I see that you are not as outraged as I am, then I know you don't see me. When a law abiding Black woman is in what should have been the safety and sanctity of her own home, and police break in and force her to stand naked even though they were at the WRONG residence, I am outraged. What if that had been your mother? When an elderly Black man is in what should have been the safety and sanctity of his own home, and police who say they are responding to a call about kids loitering force him outside to stand naked, and place a gun to his head, I must wonder how you would have reacted if that had been your grandfather. This conjures images of slave auction blocks when Black women and men were violated with that same insult and disregard. When a Black woman is in what should have been the safety and sanctity of her own home, in her own bed, and police break into (again) the wrong house and then shoot and kill her, and they are not imprisoned for doing so, it is clear that our lives do not have the same value as White lives. When Black men and women are killed, some even shot in the back, over and over by those who are supposed to serve and protect us, and you refuse to understand the term Black Lives Matter addresses the pain we feel, and why we march, fight, demand change, then you must have a motive. You are fueling the flame.
If you are complicit with your silence, then you are guilty of tossing gasoline onto this the fire. You have no right to pretend to be surprised when the kindling and fuel you added caused an inferno in our nation's capitol on January 6th. I wish I could say that it was surprising. But I've talked to too many of you. Some of you have hidden your heads in the sand and tried to distance yourselves from the crazy racists who claim your party and wear your red (and then add a bit of yellow and black to go along with it).
Some of you used the issue of gay marriage and then, when the Supreme Court ruled it legal across the nation, you conveniently switched over to abortion as the excuse not to hold rational conversation with those who think differently (or look differently) from you. You now use the issue of abortion to justify acts if racism, intolerance, hate. But you do not seem to be half as concerned about life after birth. You do not wear masks to protect the vulnerable, or vote to support rural hospitals, or vote to expand healthcare. You support the death penalty. You don't work to provide quality of life for children, elderly, poor, otherwise disenfranchised. That means you are not pro-life. You are pro-embryo.
Those of you who did nothing to check this insanity, who actually helped to feed the flames of this insanity, who in your own way tossed fuel on the fire of this insanity, are as much to blame as those who tried to destroy our democracy. The question now is: what are you going to do to make amends?
Tori Bailey, President
NAACP Tri-County Branch