Why The Economic Bondage in Alabama's Black Belt Needs Your Attention

"Nobody's free until everybody's free." — Fannie Lou Hammer

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| December 14 2017,

2:52 pm

As the eyes of America have been fixed upon the state of Alabama and the upset victory by the democratic candidate Doug Jones, I take time to reflect on the issues the citizens of this state face. There have been many troubling stories that arose out of this senatorial campaign involving controversial figure Roy Moore. However, in the midst of this hotly contested campaign, there has been a story that has not gotten as much attention on a nation scale. A few weeks ago, an official from the United Nations, named Philip Alston, visited Alabama as part of a poverty tour across the United States. In regards to the conditions that he saw in the Black Belt region of Alabama, Alston stated, "I think it's very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees." He specifically talked about the lack of proper septic systems in poverty stricken households that leads to hazardous health conditions.  



The Black Belt is a region with predominately black residents that was given its name because of its dark and fertile soil. For this reason, this area was home to many cotton plantations during slavery. In the realm of modern day society, one could certainly argue that we are far removed from the era of hearing the lash of the whip upon the backs of black families that have been placed into bondage by physical force. However, we must also acknowledge that there is a new lash that comes in the form policies that place families of the Black Belt today into economic bondage. These policies include voter ID laws, lack of access to healthcare, etc.

In 2015, former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley made a controversial decision to shut down many driver license offices across Alabama. A majority of these closures occurred in counties where the population is predominantly black — namely, the Black Belt. This decision would have made it extremely difficult to obtain the identification needed to participate in the political process. Also, access to healthcare in these areas isn't just about affordability, but rather the lack of ability of many citizens in the Black Belt to visit a hospital in close proximity to where they reside, due closures of rural hospitals. This is a result of funding cuts, as well as many residents of these communities being uninsured.

I am a native of the Black Belt. I was born in Selma, but raised in a small town called Livingston, in Sumter County. It pains me to see the conditions of people that reside in these communities. I see that many well known figures, such as activists, entertainers and athletes, encouraged the people of Alabama to vote in this special election. There has been nationwide jubilation and reverence resulting from the actions of black voters in Alabama who turned out in high numbers. Particularity black women voters. It was the election results from Selma, a city that was a pivotal part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, that pushed Doug Jones past Roy Moore on his way to becoming the first Democrat to be elected Senator in Alabama in 25 years.

I would hope is that the high level of national excitement and jubilation about this race can be used to spark a greater dialogue about the third world, such as the economic crisis occurring in an industrialized nation like America, in the Black Belt. There are many economic crisis occurring around the world. Human suffering anywhere deserves a great amount of attention. However, I would hope people realize that these conditions are very close to home, and that we must work to break the chains of economic bondage that exist among families in Alabama’s Black Belt.