Data Processing Typesetting Printing Mailing FUTUM COMMUNICATIONS, INC 3019 Alvin DeVane Suite 500 Austin, Texas 78741 Fax 512.389.0867 512.389 1500 4111111 AFTERWORD Southern Landscape BY ALLAN FREEDMAN ITHINK her name was Fannie Mae, but I can’t be sure. When I reached the scene, the heat had already started to rise from the asphalt access road above Interstate 85. She was covered by a bloody sheet, an oxygen mask still attached to her face. Relatives arrived. On a bridge above the Interstate, they began mourning Montgomery’s latest traffic fatality. Her husband shook a chain link fence, a sister wiped tears with a white tissue and moaned, “Why don’t they move her from the road? Why don’t they move her from the road?” She lay there for hours. She lay there into the morning rush hour and long after the cops had done the routine work that follows such fatalities. While the family mourned, a white traffic cop, perched on his HarleyDavidson, ate a take-out Hardee’s biscuit and cussed a photographer who tried to take his picture. I covered that early morning scene about two years ago. I had been out of college about a month, and I was about three weeks into my first journalism job reporting for the afternoon paper in Montgomery, Alabama. Fresh from an East Coast university, a native New Yorker, I found the South as I expected it. Fannie Mae became my symbol for a society still trapped in the old order, where blacks were the victims and whites the inevitable victimizers, where black leaders were the hope for a better future and whites served to halt progress at every juncture. On this last point, my outlook would change. COPS weren’t my assigned beat at The Alabama Journal; I was filling in the day I covered the fatality. City politics was my first assignment at the Deep South newspaper, and Mayor Emory Folmar my chief target. Folmar couldn’t count many blacks among his supporters and he had mastered the modern political language of appealing to a white constituency. He didn’t have to use the language of George Wallace. He could merely imply it. Understanding Folmar wasn’t difficult, but I badly misjudged the complexity of this new political world. I had thought black politicians could be counted on to keep white politicians in check. But the four black Montgomery City Council members offered little protest to the politics of Mayor Emory Folmar. In fact, they often acquiesced to Folmar’s policy decisions, especially on law and order issues that appeared to work against what I believed was their constituency. Despite obvious segregation in housing, one black city council member declared in a re-election announcement that segregation was no longer an issue in the birth place of the civil rights movement. When I graduated to state politics, my eyes widened. I did a story on one black politician who burned up thousands of dollars in state money jetting to exotic places for conferences. While the politician, who represented one of the poorest counties in the nation, consumed state dollars, school children in his district went without textbooks and maps. MY INITIAL perspective of Southern politics was shaped, of course, by parochialism. I found it convenient to blame white Southerners for an oppressive culture. And I also found it convenient to believe that all black politicians were the hope for change. This black and white world fit my dogmatic perspective of leftism. According to this line, you knew who to trust. I think my naivete was formed from fear. I was afraid my assumptions, and by extension my politics, were wrong. I was unable to admit the complexity of Southern politics, to understand that the goals of the civil rights movement are on target even though some officials have not lived up to expectations. I was unable to see that while two societies still exist in the South, it is unclear who holds the key to change. I think I was suffering from a common affliction of the left. We so often believe we have the moral high ground. And that moral egotism is often blinding. Holed up in a New York ivory-tower institution. I never considered my blanket condemnation of white Southern culture as unfair, dumb or racist. I often wonder if much of the left is caught up in this same denial game. Do we fail to confront some of our fears out of concern we will find in ourselves the prejudices and politics we are working against? Do we deny intellectual complexity because it is not only convenient but provides a safe haven from our bigotry? I no longer relish predictable thinking, and I am no longer married to the idea that dogma is the foundation of political radicalism. It is not a contradiction, for instance, to believe that black officials are being targeted by the FBI while also accepting that corruption is not confined by racial barriers. The true believer has such faith in his politics that scrutiny is welcomed and confrontation is a way of life. Having recently landed in this still foreign political culture, I face the dilemma of what line to trust and which politician I should put my faith in. It has been hinted around here that certain loyalties are expected. I guess I’ll have to judge on a case-by-case basis. complete personal and business insurance ALICE ANDERSON AGENCY 808-A East 46th P.O. Box 4666. Austin 78765 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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