Turning Friends into Enemies

The Alabama state legislature is considering a bill to place limits on who can purchase land and other real property in the state.  This has become all too common recently as states seek to secure valuable agricultural land and protect critical infrastructure and military installations.  The need to protect the homeland is legitimate, and governments at all levels must work together to protect these valuable assets from all threats, both foreign and domestic.  Unfortunately, this bill, HB379, the “Alabama Property Protection Act” does not protect our national security and is an affront to civil and human rights, violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and promotes racism, discrimination, and hated against Asians. 

It turns friends into enemies.

The original language of the act, introduced by State Representative Scott Stadhagen prohibited Chinese citizens, the Chinese government, or Chinese entities from acquiring real property in Alabama. 

According to a report by Brandon Moseley from Alabama Today (https://altoday.com/archives/51361-bill-to-prevent-china-from-buying-alabama-real-estate-passes-house), the sponsor of the bill has described all Chinese people living in the United States as the ‘biggest threat to us” and he claims “they” should be banned from purchasing property in Alabama under the guise of national security. 

Such language, a dog whistle to a bygone era, is bigoted, racist, and demonstrates a degree of knowledge and understand that is shockingly limited for an elected public official. By “us” he must people who look like him, and he claims “they” should be banned form purchasing property in Alabama.   We should expect more from our representatives and Mr. Stadhagen should remember that those he represents include those he is attacking with such language. 

Fortunately, the Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee saw the ridiculousness of such legislation and introduced a substitute bill.  Unfortunately, the bill passed by the Senate committee continues to violate the U.S. Constitution, and remains an affront to human dignity, is racist, discriminatory, and will lead to further hatred of all Asians.

This includes many people who educate your children, provide you medical care, and employ thousands of people across the state at places like the Hyundai plant outside Montgomery.  While Hyundai is a Korean company, managers and executives from Korea and other Asian nations will be directly impacted by this bill.

I am not trying to minimize the importance of national security.  The need to protect the homeland is legitimate and must be of the upmost importance. 

Unfortunately, this bill does not protect our national security, it only turns friends into enemies.

During the public hearing for the substitute HB379, Senator Sessions, chair of the committee, continued to clarify that it does not apply to American citizens.  While that it is true, and even green card holders are not prevented from purchasing real property, it does specifically list China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia as countries of concern and prevents individuals from these nations from purchasing land in Alabama.

The state has a long history of targeting individuals based solely on national origin or appearance.  I would have hoped it had moved beyond such beliefs.  To reintroduce such racist legislation, just blocks away from the Rosa Parks Museum, located on the Troy University-Montgomery campus is tragically ironic.

Concern over any government or political party that poses a legitimate threat to national security, including the Chinese Government or the Chinese Communist Party is legitimate, and reasonable precautions should be taken.  However, that has nothing to do with individual Chinese nationals who have come to America seeking the same thing most of our ancestors who voluntarily came for – to escape government oppression, enjoy religious and economic freedom, and to experience the American dream.

If this bill were to become law, it would most certainly be challenged in the courts.  This will cost the state millions of dollars with little hope of winning.  Regardless of the outcome, it will come out of these challenges with a severely tarnished reputation and may face a severe economic backlash by Asian investors.

Anyone who appears to possibly be Chinese will have to prove they are not.  This includes executives at the Hyundai, Toyota, and Mazda factories that employ thousands of non-Chinese and contribute millions of dollars to the Alabama economy.  They will have to literally ‘show their papers’ to prove they are the ‘good’ Asians.  How long will it be before the state requires Chinese to wear yellow stars on their clothing much like Nazi Germany required of Jewish people in the 1930s?

These Asian executives and managers will not want to be in Alabama as they and their families face an increased anti-Asian backlash that began during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This could easily lead to disinvestment in the state.  It will almost certainly make it nearly impossible to attract new Asian business, and will likely decrease the current investments by these and other foreign companies. 

Protecting the homeland, including national security interests and critical infrastructure is commendable.  However, this legislation fails to accomplish that.  Instead, it leads to blatant racism and discrimination that not only violates federal law, it turns back the clock in Alabama to a time when what you looked like determined your basic human rights. 

That harms national security and turns friends into enemies.

It is critical that anyone who believes in justice, liberty, and the same freedoms our forefathers fought for throughout American history work to kill this bill.  Do not let fear and racism turn your teachers, your doctors, your lawyers, your neighbors, or your friends into enemies.