Tags: Barack Obama | George Evans | mayor | race | Selma | unemployment

WSJ: Mayor of Selma 'Rejects' the Race Card

By    |   Wednesday, 11 March 2015 04:42 PM

George Evans, the mayor of Selma, Ala., steered clear of playing the race card in a recent interview, writes the Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley.

In his opinion piece, Riley highlights the fact that Mayor George Evans did not give in to a National Public Radio interviewer's tactic of tying Selma's history dealing with race issues to today's race relations.

"When National Public Radio on Sunday asked Selma's mayor how — not whether, but how — 'what happened in Selma 50 years ago fits into the current conversation about race relations in this country,' he rejected the query's premise," Riley writes.

The mayor replied by saying, "I'm not so sure how it fits. We have a lot more crime going on in 2015 all over this country than we had in 1965. Segregation existed, but we didn't have the crime. So now, even though we've gained so much through voting rights and Bloody Sunday, we've stepped backwards when it comes to crime and drugs and the jail system — things like that."

When the interviewer, according to Riley, continued to press the mayor on race and how today's race relations tie into the past, the mayor stayed true to his words.

NPR asked Evans about unemployment in Selma.

"Well, from the standpoint of jobs, we have a lot of jobs. It's just that there are a lot of people who do not have the skill level to man these jobs. And that's the biggest problem we have," the mayor said. "There are industries and businesses here that are searching for people to come to work. But many times they're not able to get the jobs because they're not going back to pick up that trade or that technical skill that's needed in order to take that job."

Evans' response to the race-related questions, Riley writes, is different than what other current leaders and experts said around the historic march on Sunday to commemorate "Bloody Sunday." The March 7, 1965, incident involved police attacking blacks with tear gas and billy clubs as they marched in the name of civil rights.

Riley noted that President Barack Obama, in his comments at the march on Sunday, drew parallels between the civil rights challenges of 50 years ago with today's environment — particularly in Ferguson, Mo., the site of violent riots last year in response to a black man being shot and killed by a white police officer.

Obama mentioned issues such as "overcrowded prisons" and "unfair sentencing," and said photo-identification laws are a form of "voter suppression," according to Riley.

"Ferguson, Mo., in 2015 is not Selma, Ala., in 1965. Black people in America today are much more likely to experience racial preferences than racial slights," Riley writes. "The violent crime that is driving the black incarceration rate spiked after the civil-rights victories of the 1960s, not before. And if voter-ID laws threaten the black franchise, no one seems to have told the black electorate. According to the Census Bureau, the black voter-turnout rate in 2012 exceeded the white turnout rate, even in states with the strictest voter-ID requirements."

Riley summarizes his position by saying blacks are simply not grabbing the bull by the horns when it comes to unemployment issues.

"The racial disparity that persists today is not evidence that too many blacks face the same challenges they did in 1965, that 'the march is not yet finished,' as Mr. Obama asserted," Riley writes. "Rather, it is evidence that too few blacks — as Selma's mayor told NPR — have taken advantage of the opportunities now available to them."

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George Evans, the mayor of Selma, Ala., steered clear of playing the race card in a recent interview, writes the Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley.
George Evans, mayor, race, Selma, unemployment
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 04:42 PM
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