The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

1 month ago

‘The Hammer’: A tribute to Hank Aaron, a role model for us all

(S. McEachin Otts/Facebook, YHN)

The following came from my bookBetter Than Them, the Unmaking of an Alabama Racist, published by New South Books. I edited the article copy referenced below for purposes of this one as indicated in parenthesis.

Looking back at my most impressionable years, I consider the examples and impressions left by such icons as Sheriff Andy Griffith of Mayberry, and they pale against that of one particular sports star. I doubt he ever set foot in my hometown, and I’ve not met him to this day. Yet he made a difference. Some years ago, I wrote a piece about Hank Aaron that was published below his picture in my city newspaper, the Mobile Press Register. Mobile was Hank’s hometown. I want to share the article here because I believe it clearly states my point about Hammering Hank’s influence.

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… As a white boy growing up in a small Alabama town, I was surrounded by influences that promoted racism. This is not to say that my hometown was all bad. It was a good place to grow up, but it was flawed—just like people. For me, there was one notable outside influence, and that was professional baseball. I loved the game, the baseball cards, and the speculation about the best players.

It may seem strange today that my favorite team was the Milwaukee Braves, but the fact that they were the National League’s Yankee killers provides the most logical explanation, those two legendary teams facing off in consecutive World Series. My favorite player was a gritty third baseman, Eddie Mathews, recently deceased. At least, I told the guys he was my favorite. There was one reason Mathews held this position: The other Milwaukee Brave who captured my attention as a twelve-year-old was a black man. His name was Hank Aaron, and he was indeed the Hammer when it came to hitting a baseball. He was also a speed merchant on the base paths and an excellent fielder. He did all those things in a masterful way, but there was something else that drew this little boy’s attention to Hank Aaron, and I want to share it with you.

In Hank Aaron, I saw a man of quiet, humble character who worked very hard to be the best at his profession. You see, to me, Hank Aaron’s strength has always been his humility, and his pride has been apparent in the way he carries himself and has endured under pressure. I lived in a place where a white boy identifying with a black man was grounds for sheer lunacy, but I was not crazy. I liked Hank Aaron. It had nothing to do with color, and everything to do with class. Later, when he was striving for Babe Ruth’s record, I knew little about the threats on his life and family. I didn’t hear the racial slurs. I saw a man still quietly striving to give his best, regardless.

Hank Aaron was my favorite player, belatedly claimed, whose example put my feet on a bridge leading toward seeing my fellow man in a different way. Oh sure, a lot more water passed under that bridge in my life. However, for one twelve-year old, Hank came along at a time when I needed a favorite who just happened to be black. In my heart, I knew he was my favorite all along. Today, I can say it with pride. That’s a difference. That’s a contribution to our community.

In my view, the return on investments that a real champion makes in the lives of others, especially children, is very meaningful……I’ll let others tell you about money and material assets. I can tell you that Hank Aaron’s investment in my life has been significant, and I like to think that it continues to pay dividends in the lives of those in our community whom I may influence. Thank you, Hank.

S. McEachin “Mac” Otts is the author of “Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist”

7 months ago

Race relations — Making a difference!

(W.Miller/YHN)

Roy Williams, on behalf of the Birmingham Public Library, interviewed me recently about my book — “Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist.”

He also asked me some important questions about the George Floyd incident and implications going forward. Copied below is that part of the Q&A plus my answer to a final question about my book that relates very directly to where we find ourselves today.

Regardless of your race or political persuasion, I believe that you can make a constructive difference in race relations by taking part in the day-to-day, grassroots change I propose. (The entire interview is available here).

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BPL: Given the discussion on race that is going on in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, what is your reaction as someone who admits they were a racist before changing your views?

Otts: The incident sickened me. As a Christian, I saw his terrible killing as not only a legal matter deserving of severe charges, but as sin deserving of repentance (like racism itself). As shown in my book, race is way too convenient as a hook to hang hang-ups on. I do not think white people need to just shut up and listen.

We need to talk too! I think police reform is needed, but not some cookie cutter approach that ignores the need for transparent community-based discussion. That’s why I favor federal incentives to bring about change and community efforts to hold authorities accountable for implementation of the type of communication that will not just result in policy changes, but in relationship changes. On the private side, churches should step up without politics. Since people are church, that means folks of faith.

BPL: What do you hope comes out of this discussion on race in wake of Floyd?

Otts: I hope we finally gain a foothold on a major key to building better race relations – a form of communication about race and our personal experiences and views that is not dependent on fear or political correctness, but is characterized by the type of transparency reflected in my book and all I and others have done to communicate constructively. We have, as a society, been in our adolescence in this regard – time to grow up!

BPL: Why do you think this issue of Floyd death is capturing support from whites and other non-blacks while so many other killings by police and others of unarmed blacks did not?

Otts: I think it has gained momentum from an intersection of factors in our society, not the least of which is growth from the seeds planted during the Civil Rights Movement. People like me have either changed or are moving on! Racism is still a big problem. As a society, as I said, we have been adolescent – time to grow up!

BPL: What lessons do you hope readers of your book will learn?

Otts: I hope they will learn about the importance of process and transparency as it relates to racism and growing relationships across racial lines – as well as the practical difference they can make by taking improving race relations to be a day-to-day personal challenge. We all have something that will make a difference. Let’s tell our stories!

S. McEachin “Mac” Otts is the author of “Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist”

9 months ago

Guest: I support ‘black lives matter,’ not Black Lives Matter

(S. McEachin Otts/Facebook, YHN)

I am not a Black Lives Matter guy, but I am a black lives matter guy. Here’s what I mean: Regardless of any merits, the formal organization Black Lives Matter is clearly in favor of defunding the police as stated in this quote from their website: “We call for a national defunding of police.” That is not meritorious in any way!

I fully support the principle that black lives matter, and I’m for many of the reforms I know about, but I am totally against defunding the police — so I cannot support any organization supporting such an extreme, dangerous proposal as defunding the police. Give me a break!

I am for localization of most reforms because all local departments have distinct needs. It’s good for the feds to incentivize certain common priorities as laid out recently by the Trump administration. That includes incentives for local police departments that seek “independent credentialing” to certify that law enforcement is meeting higher standards for the use of force and de-escalation training. Those standards would include banning the use of chokeholds “except if an officer’s life is at risk.”

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Also included in fed. changes is incentivizing local departments to bring on experts in mental health, addiction and homelessness as “co-responders” to “help officers manage these complex encounters.”

Further, the incentives would encourage better information sharing to track officers with “credible abuses” to prevent them from moving from one department to the next. These are big changes, and incentivizing allows for individualized approaches at the local level. Every location does not have the same needs or challenges. If we believe any of these incentivized reforms need national “teeth,” that’s the job of our elected representatives in Congress.

All of this is good, and if some bipartisan action is taken by Congress, it will likely be reasonable and fitting. However, defunding the police is one of the most unreasonable and just plain worst ideas I have ever seen pushed nationally. Therefore, I repeat: I am not a Black Lives Matter guy, but I am a black lives matter guy.

One more thing must be said. As interracial groups on the local level gather to discuss these matters, please do not allow elephants to remain in the room. Drop the political correctness and fear-mongering for once! Black people should share openly and respectfully, and white people should do the same.

The word is transparency, and it’s the stuff on which we build good relationships. Black lives matter, but to improve race relations, so do relationships. Better relationships between black people and white people means black lives matter more.

S. McEachin “Mac” Otts is author of “Better Than Them: The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist”

1 year ago

A note from the author of ‘Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist’

(W.Miller/YHN)

As a conservative agreeing with President Trump on many issues, I am not automatically a racist. I don’t have to be defensive. My life speaks for itself, and those casting racist aspersions toward folks like me do not know me and my life or yours. It is blind condemnation similar to the type that forms the heart of racism itself.

Below you will find my latest effort to help us improve race relations. I invite fellow conservatives to resist defensiveness and find more motivation to do something to improve race relations in our great country!

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Ten questions (and subs) to ponder and answer — or not:

1. Has “racist” become a political term? If so, how did that happen?
2. Is there a blurring of the line between “racism” and “prejudice”? Does it matter? How?
3. Do you live in an “integrated” neighborhood? What tells you that?
4. If you are white, do you know one or more black person you can talk with about racially charged issues? If not, should you?
5. If you are black, do you know a white person you can talk with about such issues? If not, should you?
6. If the person in front of you in a checkout line is of a race other than yours, is your patience level with their delay any different than it would be with a similar delay caused by someone of your own race? If so, how is it different and why?
7. Do you think you are carrying any racial luggage from your childhood? Is there any reason why you have not unloaded that luggage?
8. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest score, how colorblind are you when it comes to attitudes about race? Is the score you gave yourself something you feel good about?
9. Per your results from #8, is there something you think you need to do that might help you change your score for the good?
10. If there is something you need to change, who would the change help? Name those people, and pray for them to get the help!

By the way, if you don’t need any constructive change, you can make the next list of questions.

S. McEachin “Mac” Otts is the author of “Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist”

3 years ago

We need to break out of our own shackles when it comes to discussing race

(CNN/YouTube)

In regards to the disturbance caused by Kanye West’s comments on slavery, West provided clarification that I believe is much less inflammatory than the original statement.

That statement seemed to mean that he believes slavery was voluntary—an ignorant, insulting comment without the clarification that followed.

I found that the media at times did not include the totality of his first statement, and many publicized reactions did not include the clarification. Here is what he originally said:

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“When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all? It’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word ‘prison’ because slavery goes too direct to the idea of blacks.”

In the same interview, West went on to say, “Prison is something that unites us as one race, blacks and whites being one race. We’re the human race.”

Afterward, Kanye West tweeted the following to clarify his comments in the interview:

“We need to have open discussions and ideas on unsettled pain, to make myself clear. Of course, I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved. They cut our tongues so we couldn’t communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut.”

“We are programmed to always talk and fight race issues,” he added. “We need to update our conversation. the reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought it was just an idea. once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas.”

Personally, I accept his clarification as a valid expression of opinion- whether I agree or not. I do agree that black people should not feel restricted to the politically acceptable view of anything, nor should they refrain from expressing a contrary view.

Thinking for yourself and expressing your opinion on vital issues, with or against the grain of any culture, are colorless rights. All people deserve respect for their sincerely held opinions, regardless of skin color.

In fact, in my opinion, bringing unspoken views to the surface (being more transparent) is the best way to progress in regard to race and race relations in our society.

This is not easy. I realize that the shackles of slavery were not simply shed with the Emancipation Proclamation. So—black or white—we can’t simply open up any more than we can “just get over it.”

The tangible effects of those shackles lingered through many years of restricted voting rights as well as whites-only bathrooms, water fountains, and schools. Legally supported slavery and its physical shackles may have disappeared well over 150 years ago, but those other legally-supported restrictive shackles were maintained for another hundred! It was not that long ago.

Victims still bear the pain of those post-slavery shackles while others bear that pain in their love for parent and grandparent victims who still suffer. Then, there are the day-to-day, very real burdens of social and economic racism borne by some more than others.

To be honest, as long as sin is alive in our society, I do not expect this or even more radical forms of racism perpetrated by sinful people to disappear. However, we can and must progress in race relations. This is America, and now is the time to begin the transparency real progress will require! It may be another generation who receives the full benefit of real relationships—good race relations, after all, being dependent on good, open relationships.

The purpose statement for my book, Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist, is consistent with this in terms of promoting a new, better approach to improving race relations, and I quote it here for your consideration: “I want Better Than Them to contribute to a fresh, constructive dialogue on race relations in our nation—one rooted more in transparency than in political correctness.”

From all I have gathered in my experience as well as research for, feedback on, and many diverse discussions about the contents of my book, we need to break out of our own shackles when it comes to discussing race and race relations. Not much does more damage to relationships than the elephants in rooms that we see but never talk about. Going back to a turning point in this regard, was good or harm done by not having interracial discussions about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri? What about Confederate statues? Ask yourself the good/harm question if you denied those elephants in the room, and only spoke transparently when others in the room obviously shared your views.

I say that this is indeed the time to start communicating our own individual views about the elephant—political correctness and tenacious fears notwithstanding! Leave the professional activists and politicians out of it. Relationship building is a grass-roots thing.

Yes, it is still not easy to talk about race and race relations – to give our own views, to be transparent. Beginnings rarely are – just like childbirth. Still, until we break the silence, many of us—black and white—are indeed voluntarily submitting to a form of slavery. In that regard, at least, Kanye is right. We are all in the same prison.

S. McEachin “Mac” Otts is the author of Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist and lives in Mobile.