Alabama councilwoman complains Holocaust memorial is racist because ‘it is for dead people’
An Alabama city councilwoman made a series of outrageous — and mostly inaccurate — arguments in her attempt to claim a proposal to honor victims of the Holocaust was racist against black people.
Sheila Tyson doesn’t want the city to pay $45,500 to remove existing buildings on the site of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, which has raised about $500,000 to build a memorial park alongside a 9/11 memorial, reported AL.com.
“Dead is dead,” Tyson argued.
Tyson, who has previously asked the city to pay for repairs at the historically black Shadow Lawn Cemetery, said she didn’t understand why the city should help the privately funded memorial project.
“Isn’t it still for dead people,” Tyson said. “It is for dead people. Aren’t the people they are memorializing deceased?”
City Attorney Thomas Bentley, whose parents are buried in Shadow Lane, sighed and tried to explain how the black cemetery was a private entity, while the Holocaust memorial expressed the city’s remembrance.
“I’m not sure I have the vocabulary or explanatory power to indicate the distinction although it’s clear to me from a legal standpoint that there is a distinction,” Bentley said.
Tyson then mustered a series of factually inaccurate claims to make her case, noted Birmingham News columnist John Archibald.
She claimed Shadow Lawn, which was purchased in the late 1800s and used as a cemetery in the 1930s, the oldest cemetery in the state — but it’s not even the oldest one in Birmingham.
“This is the oldest cemetery in the world,” Tyson said. “If this isn’t a tourist attraction I want to know what is. President Obama’s wife’s great, great granddaddy is buried out there.”
Michelle Obama’s great-great grandfather, Carpenter Dolphus Shields, is, in fact, buried at Shadow Lawn.
“What’s the difference?” Tyson said. “I see the difference. I know the difference but I will leave it right there.”
Councilwoman Lashunda Scales came to Tyson’s aid.
“I know the difference,” Scales said. “The difference is the haves and have-nots.”
City Council decided to table the issue for another week until the project’s developer could answer questions for Tyson and other reluctant officials.
“It is meant to teach the community of the consequences of prejudice and hate,” said Rebecca Dobrinski, the memorial center’s executive director. “That is the lesson of the Holocaust. Our goal is to teach the lessons of the Holocaust … so that we do not go down that slippery slope of hate again.”
Watch video from the City Council meeting posted online by AL.com: