I said that we would be back.
A few weeks ago, the League of the South held a flash rally on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. This led to an uproar in Selma which I responded to last week.
There is a reason why the League of the South chose to come to Selma and to take that photo op on the Edmund Pettus Bridge at 6 AM on a Saturday morning. We wanted to start a conversation about Selma in the 21st century, but we didn’t want to be disruptive. For far too long, ‘racism’ and ‘white supremacy’ have been the scapegoats for all of Selma’s social and economic problems.
The League wanted to avoid a confrontation in Selma. The point of our little ironic photo op was to show that the last thing in the world that Selma needs right now is more bridge LARPing. We don’t have any interest in “showing out” in a big confrontation with all of these geriatric bridge LARPers who want to relive the 1960s. Every year 78-year-old Rep. John Lewis and his fellow civil rights dinosaurs parachute into Selma for their annual photo op on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
We went to Selma to lampoon those people by showing that we can march across that magic bridge too. Have you seen what Selma looks like these days under their leadership? The truth is that Selma has become a violent, impoverished ghost town that attracts nothing but bridge LARPers. It lives exclusively in the past and has all but given up on the present and the future.
In many ways, Selma reminds me of the countries that I have studied in post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa. The end of white supremacy and colonialism in Africa empowered a new black leadership caste that stuck around for decades. In Mobutu’s Zaire, these people were known as the “Big Vegetables.” Whether it was Congo, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Liberia or Equatorial Guinea, the Big Vegetables bled their countries dry which invariably sunk into ruin under their comical mismanagement.
In 1997, 67-year-old Mobutu Sese Seko fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in a Russian cargo plane while rebels sacked his jungle palace in Gbadolite. By that point, Mobutu had been in power for 32 years and Zaire had become the poorest, most dysfunctional country on earth. The looters found the countless bottles of pink champagne and hundreds of adult diapers The Leopard had left behind. Unlike the Congo, Selma still hasn’t shrugged off John Lewis and Hank and Rose Sanders.
Selma has national significance because Hollywood and the mainstream media have turned the Edmund Pettus Bridge into a symbol of black voting rights. We’ve all been exposed to the official narrative which was most recently seen in the 2014 movie Selma. Every public school in the United States was sent a copy of that movie which celebrates MLK’s triumph in Selma. The National Park Service maintains the Lowndes Interpretative Center along the route of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. Those of us who live in the area know the darker truth of the matter.
(Fifty Years Forward)
If you start at Brown Chapel AME Church and the George Washington Carver projects in Selma, proceed through downtown Selma, cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and follow in the footsteps of John Lewis across Lowndes County to the west side of Montgomery, you will find today a scene of total social and economic devastation. After all their marching, John Lewis and his fellow bridge LARPers have left behind nothing in the region except blighted homes, boarded up abandoned businesses and a few deserted bingo halls. Sherman’s March to the Sea wasn’t as devastating.
I’ve been coming to Selma for years now to document the decline. Click on any of the three images below to see the Flickr galleries from 2011, 2017 and 2018 that show you the real Selma:
Selma is a place which is touted as a symbol of progress where all economic progress has ground to a halt. It is a city of no hope and no opportunity. I’ve been watching the city slowly revert to the wilderness as blighted buildings are torn down and replaced by vacant lots. By many indexes, Selma is now the worst place to live in Alabama and one of the worst places to live in the United States.
Black empowerment was the intent of the Voting Rights Act and in Selma it has been very successful. Selma has a black mayor and majority black city council. It has a black US representative in Congress. It has a black state representative and a black state senator. It has a 98% black public school system presided over by a black school superintendent. Selma voted for Hillary Clinton and Doug Jones. Until recently, it had a black police chief presiding over a majority black police force under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
And the result? Selma now suffers from blight, corruption, potholes, failing schools, STDs, staggering poverty, unemployment, violent crime and abandonment. It is no accident that Sturdivant Hall and Live Oak Cemetery are the best maintained parts of Selma. Those appear to be the only places White people still care about after 10,000 of them voted with their feet and left Selma over the past 30 years. The rest of Selma including the abandoned downtown, the commercial highway strip and the swiftly decaying Historic District have all been ceded to the current inhabitants.
The Walton Theater was reopened in 2015 for the debut of Selma. It now shows other hilarious Hollywood movies like Hidden Figures and Black Panther … the point being I guess to maximize cognitive dissonance between the reality of black-run Selma in 2018 and fictional black power utopias like Wakanda. The struggle against racism and white supremacy continues!
(Just the other day this guy was shot in Selma)
After making the trek out to Selma yesterday afternoon, I can report that nothing much has changed since my last visit there in January 2017. The Selma Mall looks even more haggard. More people have been murdered in Selma for no apparent reason. The destroyed “Welcome to Historic Selma” sign has been removed. Bojangles appears to have come to have come and gone. The tumbleweeds are still blowing through downtown which hasn’t attracted a single new business since I started coming in 2011. I noticed more Afrocentrism including some We Wuz Kangz and Space Pyramids imagery downtown and a blighted house which was decorated with a photo of Frederick Douglass. Kids in Selma don’t have air conditioning in public schools because thieves recently ransacked the air conditioning units and caused $200,000 worth of damage to steal a small amount of copper.
Naturally, the bridge LARPers were out in force yesterday. As I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I found myself wondering what these people see in Selma. Does the reality of Selma live up to their expectations? Are they incapable of seeing the degree to which Selma has declined? Do they take in the view of the city and feel morally superior for reducing it to such squalor and ruin? My overwhelming impression is that Selma is worse off today than it was in the 1960s. I don’t think the “white supremacist violence” we have heard so much about holds a candle to Selma as it exists today.
Selma clearly used to be a bustling, beautiful Southern city. The Queen City still has some beautiful antebellum mansions. It has a beautiful graveyard. The Historic District would look great if it was still being kept up. The people who built Selma though have gone the way of the Romans or the Ancient Egyptians. They’ve been stigmatized and replaced by these bridge LARPers who have accomplished nothing but wrecking the city and leaving it worse off for everyone. Their allies in Hollywood and the media have spent decades covering up what really happened there after the cameras left.
I mean like … who benefited from this? I suppose you could argue that the people of Selma gained some incompetent politicians because of the bridge LARPers. Otherwise, it doesn’t look like a single dollar has been invested in the George Washington Carver projects in the past 50 years. Would Selma be better off today if John Lewis and those bridge LARPers had been sicced on Prattville?
Note: I will be back in Selma in 2019 to observe more of this progress! Who do you think will get shot or go out of business between now and then?