The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma has made the news again:
“Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Director of the National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis today announced the designation of 13 new national historic landmarks, including the majestic Edmund Pettus Bridge, a 400-year-old historic district showcasing the influence of Spanish culture in Puerto Rico, the home of author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, and a historic stadium used by Negro league baseball teams in 20th-century segregated America.”
When I last visited Selma in 2011, I left with the sense that the Edmund Pettus Bridge had become something of a Medieval shrine for Northeastern DWL pilgrims in the religion of White guilt. Now at least it is official.
A few days ago, Vice President Joe Biden, the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Eric “My People” Holder parachuted into town for a photo op at the annual march across Selma’s Magic Bridge to commemorate America’s triumph over “the forces of evil” in Dallas County (AL):
“Biden said nothing shaped his consciousness more than watching TV footage of the beatings. “We saw in stark relief the rank hatred, discrimination and violence that still existed in large parts of the nation,” he said.
Biden said marchers “broke the back of the forces of evil,” but challenges to voting rights continue today with restrictions on early voting and voter registration drives and enactment of voter ID laws where no voter fraud has been shown.”
LBJ, Congress, and the Mainstream Media succeeded in breaking the back of “the forces of evil” with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While in Selma, Biden took the opportunity to remind us how that all came about:
“I think many in my generation who watched from another part of the country thought the right to vote had been secured,” said Biden. “But on that day 48 years ago we saw that it had not.
“My regret has been, ‘Why were we not there?’ I regret and I apologize it took me 48 years to get here. I should have been here. I should have been here,” repeated Biden.
He was there … for the day.
“Alarmed at the prospect of being swallowed up by predominantly black Selma, residents of a nearby and predominantly white, unincorporated community known as Summerfield hatched a plan in 2002 to keep themselves disconnected from the expanding city. By gathering enough local signatures, they would simply incorporate themselves into a new town, thereby separating their fortunes from their more undesirable black neighbors. Thus was founded in 2003 the town of Valley Grande – complete with the presumptuous é on the end revealing all the élan of a Florida condo development.
“What they did was typical – they just made a new city so that Selma couldn’t get its hands on the resources from this area,” a local African-American tells me.
Local whites, on the other hand, point to a decaying and downtrodden Selma and feel justified in their efforts to avoid being pulled into the obvious squalor. When I asked a longtime white Valley Grande resident why the town wouldn’t want to be associated with historic Selma, he said, “You been to Selma? You seen Selma? All the empty buildings? That’s the reason we didn’t want in there.”
Nearly fifty years later, there is a reason why the Mainstream Media doesn’t come to Selma in 2013 to showcase the nearly abandoned downtown business district, the failing public schools, the blighted and dilapidated housing stock, the syphilis billboards, the potholes, litter, and knee high grass, the ruined shopping centers and restaurants, the decaying antebellum mansions and other such indicators of the “progress” and “vibrancy” that Selma has made since it was redeemed for “democracy” by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in 1965.
The reason why those civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge encountered such “entrenched hostility and prejudice” from local Whites … was because the “forces of evil” who had to live in that city (as opposed to cheering for black people on television in a distant state) had a vested interest in preventing the sort of social and economic collapse described above from happening.
In Selma and Birmingham and Tuskegee, the “forces of evil” were vanquished by self-righteous Yankees like Joe Biden … and so was commerce, the tax base, quality public schools, safe neighborhoods, high property value, streets without potholes, quality public services, and competence in government.
In the parlance of the Civil Rights Movement, those things were “overcome.”