We recommend a “yes” vote on Amendment 4, which removes racial language from the state constitution.
Some of what Amendment 4 accomplishes is long overdue. It removes portions of a Jim Crow law, passed in 1956, that reference racial segregation and poll taxes.
The provisions are no longer enforceable, but they are an embarrassment to Alabama and an ongoing insult to all citizens.
One of the arguments in favor of the amendment is economic. States competing with Alabama for new industry need do no more than point at the constitution to document their claim that Alabama is a backward and racist state.
If Amendment 4 passes, outsiders can look at the constitution and see no obvious racist taint.
We are frustrated with Amendment 4 because it does not take the obvious step of repealing the 1956 law.
Amendment 4 excises the portions of a law that outsiders recognize as racist, but leaves the rest intact. The entire purpose of the 1956 law was to resist desegregation.
The law ends the state’s duty to maintain a public education system and authorizes the creation of tax-funded private schools.
The Legislature took these steps because it preferred no public school system to an integrated one.
We wish Amendment 4 simply repealed the 1956 law, leaving in place the earlier constitutional provision that required — as 48 other state constitutions require — Alabama to maintain a public school system.
The state will suffer if Amendment 4 fails. A similar amendment removing the same racist language failed in 2004.
For the rest of the world, the failure confirmed Alabama’s reputation for racism. If the amendment fails Nov. 6, the stigma will be even stronger.
We support Amendment 4 because it removes an embarrassing blight from the constitution.
We support it because it will remove one barrier to economic progress, a barrier that hurts all races.
At the same time, we hope the Legislature understands the smallness of what Amendment 4 accomplishes.
Racial inequality does not flow from a few blatantly racist words in the constitution. It does, however, result from a vast racial gap in opportunity.
In Alabama, 46 percent of black children live in poverty. The median household income of blacks is $20,000 less than whites.
One of the best ways to give Alabama blacks a fair shot is to make sure they attend well-funded schools.
The state needs to embrace, not run from, its moral obligation to strengthen public schools.
Amendment 4 removes the unpleasant trappings of racial injustice, but it does not address the core.
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