Diane McWhorter: The Strange Career of Juan Crow

Diane McWhorter is the author of “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.”

THE depth of my alienation from home hit me last January, when Alabama shut out Louisiana State for the college football championship. Even in the familiar afterglow of ’Bama’s second title in three years, I had to ask myself, what right did my state have to brag, about anything?

The pride of the Crimson Tide fan is just the relatively fun side of the state’s reason-blind tribalism, the same hard-wiring that produced its other recent superlative, the “toughest in the nation” immigration law that made criminal suspects of an entire class of human beings — and turned those who tolerated their presence into felon accessories. Thanks to H.B. 56 (the “Beason-Hammon Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act”), passed a year ago by the state’s first Republican Legislature since Reconstruction, I am ashamed of being from Alabama.

The contagion of Alabama’s shame became apparent in April, during the oral argument before the Supreme Court on Arizona’s immigration legislation, the test case for several similar state laws aimed primarily at Hispanics. All have been substantially blocked by federal courts, except Alabama’s, most of which went into effect last fall, catastrophically achieving the goal Arizona calls “attrition through enforcement” — also known as “self-deportation.”...

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