State representative Will Dismukes is the shackle of Alabama’s past preventing this state from moving forward. Last weekend, while the rest of the state was celebrating the life of politician and activist John Lewis, Dismukes felt like his time would be better spent celebrating the life of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. As if that wasn’t egregious enough, representative Dismukes felt that it was necessary to broadcast to the world his racist and insensitive actions on social media. While the governor of this great state was welcoming the body of representative Lewis into the state capitol building in Montgomery to lie in state
(an action that would have been unthinkable in the 1960s when Lewis was getting arrested at lunch counters and being beaten within an inch of his life on the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma), Dismukes was making it clear to the world that he would have stood with Bull Connor, Sheriff Clark, and George Wallace when it came to segregation, both then and forever.
The reaction from the political opponents of Representative Dismukes was certainly predictable. Not only was the act so abhorrent that it deserved condemnation, but the Alabama Democratic party had called for Dismukes’s resignation not even a month before this incident due to his affiliation with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He just handed over a shiny gold example on a silver platter of exactly why he should resign. The reaction from Dismukes’s allies has largely been to remain silent, except for a few cases.
Alabama’s Republican leadership, elected or otherwise, has certainly sought to separate themselves from Dismukes’s actions. However, only one has called for his outright resignation so far. That call came from the state senator that Dismukes represents in house district 88, Senator Chambliss. Terry Lathan, the chairwoman of the Alabama Republican party, was practically spitting fire in the direction of Representative Dismukes while reading her statement, but she stopped short of calling for his resignation. Possibly the actions (or lack thereof) which speaks loudest are the actions of Governor Kay Ivey.
The governor who welcomed the body and the family of Representative John Lewis into the state capitol building to lie in state has thus far not released a statement or called for the resignation of the erstwhile Dismukes. As the leader of not only this state but also of the Republican party, it is incumbent upon her to set the direction and tone of both the state and the party. She is either doing so with her silence or refusing to do so. If the governor does not want her actions called into question while leading this state through the mourning process due to one of the state’s must courageous and principled sons, and if she doesn’t want the remorse shown by herself and forgiveness extended to her during her own racial controversy, Governor Ivey needs to make a strong show and lead this state with the moral conviction necessary to call for Representative Dismukes’s resignation.
As we learn in the Bible, one of the greatest gifts about forgiveness is that it gives us the moral conviction and courage from God to stand up for His principles and fight for all His children. Failing to call out Representative Dismukes, who has shown a lack of remorse, understanding, and sensitivity, just makes the remorse that this governor showed just a few short years ago (which felt heartfelt and genuine at the time) ring hollow.