There’s no place in America that’s safe from racism when you’re Black in America. It doesn’t matter where you live, or how smart you are. You can be jogging, eating ice cream at home or sleeping in your bed. Racism can find you.
If there’s anybody who knows this better than most, it’s Sarah Collins Rudolf. She was in church on a September Sunday morning when a bomb exploded killing four little girls and injuring countless other people who were just trying to attend church service. One of those little girls was Mrs. Rudolf’s sister, Addie Mae Collins. Addie Mae, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair are collectively known as the Four Little Girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Even though Mrs. Rudolf survived the blast she suffered from debilitating burns and she lost vision in one eye.
Everybody knew the murderers were Ku Klux Klan members enraged about recent school desegregation. But a racists in charge of the criminal justice system protected those murders for decades.
Recently Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey formally apologized to Mrs. Rudolf for what the governor admitted was ‘one of the darkest days in Alabama’s history.’ But the governor stopped short of endorsing Ruldolf’s request for restitution. The governor offered an apology 57 years overdue. Yet, for a woman who lost a loved one and has suffered with debilitating injuries since that fateful day, restitution isn’t too much to ask. Refusing to endorse Rudolf’s request makes this apology ring hollow.
Mrs. Rudolf’s attorneys are seeking restitution on her behalf for the decades of medical bills, counseling and emotional pain she has suffered that started when the State of Alabama allowed these racist acts to go unpunished.
New York paid restitution to victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Survivors and family members of the Boston Marathon bombing got paid. And last week a judge approved an $800 million settlement for the victims of the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Hotel shooting. So if they can get paid, then Alabama – with its well-documented racist history – should pay Mrs. Rudolf.
Politicians should stop writing apologies if they’re not willing to write checks. Stop wishing us well if you’re not ready to put your money where your mouth is, especially in a state such as Alabama where then Governor George Wallace promoted ‘segregation today, segregation forever’ in his inaugural address.
As we used to say in elementary school: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Although words can be hurtful, it’s those weapons of destruction that kill and maim us! It’s bullets and knees on our necks that serve as modern day lynchings.
And that brings me to my second point: As symbolic as it is for owners of professional sports teams to allow players to kneel during the National Anthem, and other displays of peaceful protests against legalized genocide of Black people, the best indication of what as person cares about is where he spends his time and where he spends his money.
A recent USA Today investigation revealed that in 2019 and so far in 2020 pro sports team owners have donated no less than $14.6 million to U.S. congressional candidates with nearly 86% of those donations going to Republican candidates and conservative causes that include $3.7 million to political action committee (PACs) aligned with President Donald Trump.
This is the same Donald Trump who said he doesn’t believe there is systemic racism in America; he believes the criminal justice system is fair and equitable; he makes excuses for bully, liar, killer cops that Joe Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill helped put on the streets around the United States.
Incidentally, $1.35 million of the donations from owners of pro sports teams went to Democratic congressional candidates and liberal causes, including $334,000 to directly support Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, according to the report.
Trump doesn’t support the Black Lives Matter movement. He has supported legislation that weakens environmental protection for clean air and water. He systematically is dismantling Obamacare that offers more Americans healthcare, even with pre-existing conditions. And that’s a benefit needed especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
While I agree that everyone has the right to spend their money where and with whom they want, show me where a man spends his time and his money and I’ll show you what he values. Most pro sports team owners value conservative ideologies that are in opposition to what most of their players value. They should put their money where their mouths are.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with your comments, questions and speaking inquiries. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @TCBStef.