By Raven Madison, Opinion
On May 31, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin carried out his plan to remove a Confederate monument downtown in Linn Park at the request of continuous chanting from protesters crying out: “no justice, no peace.”
This protest was preceded by the heartbreaking stories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black Americans who have died at the hands of the police.
As a Black woman who grew up in the heart of Birmingham — a breeding ground for racism — I too mourn heavily with the families and friends who have lost their loved ones over the color of their skin.
“If there is a judgment rendered from the judge, then we should be held accountable,” Woodfin said. “And I am willing to accept that, because that is a lower cost than civil unrest in our city.”
Though civil unrest is not the best response, we cannot continue to remain silent while our people are still dying every day from police brutality without any repercussions. Yes, having the statue removed has created more solidarity amongst black and white people who are fighting for change in our community, but it is not enough.
As we try to come together to rid our nation of its prejudice nature, the unwavering hatred in others continues to rise even more.
On June 4, Birmingham was met with death threats to the mayor and bomb threats to UAB along with allegations of the Ku Klux Klan making their own protest in the downtown area. As a result of this UAB closed its operations early for the day and City Hall began a lockdown.
Later in the week, a 49 year old white man named Brian Vest, from the northern Jefferson county town of Warrior was arrested for making terroristic threats against Birmingham’s black mayor, Randall Woodfin.
After the arrest, Woodfin said in a video that “we do not yield or give in to rumors and we do not yield or give in to fear”.
But, on the night of June 4th, live videos circulated around social media that displayed groups of black people who had made their way downtown to possibly confront the Ku Klux Klan chanted “where the Klan at? (where they at?)” in response to the absence of the white supremacist hate group.
I felt the fear in my chest as I drove down the streets praying for my safety at every block that I passed. I prayed for my boyfriend and friends who were working in the hospitals and offices where the threats were directed. I prayed for any black person who might have been downtown at that time. Those threats of violence and the continued existence of the Ku Klux Klan proves that we are still far from where we need to be.
Though removing confederate statues is a much-appreciated step in the right direction, I believe that creating new laws to protect the race of people who were forced from their land to build this country is critical if we are going to move forward again.
Protests and boycotts are just the beginning. We must let our voices be heard and let the world know that this is not a temporary fad that will blow over to be replaced by the next hot topic.
Birmingham is no stranger to being at the forefront of controversial topics of racial injustice and inequality.
Just as our ancestors fought during the Civil Rights Movement for us to be able to occupy the same public spaces as our white counterparts, we must push ourselves to not accept the bare minimum.
Not only should we remove racist statues, but we should also demand equality for all people of color who are treated unjustly within our “justice” system.
All photos taken by Chris Mitchell for Red Mountain Reporter