Recently, I authored an artcle titled, “Surely this article will get me sued.”
It was about the daughter of a friend of mine who while studying abroad was asked by a fellow student why Birmingham had a separate bar association for African-Americans. (Her friend had discovered on the Internet)
I wrote specifically that I was not knowledgeable about our bar associations and I wasn’t being judgmental, but I was concerned with the perception of Birmingham since historically we have had a poor reputation for race relations.
I was immediately accused by commenters of “race baiting”…
“…I thought one of the purposes of this blog/site was to discourage folks from always dragging Birmingham issues through the mud of race relations past or present. All an article like this does is inject racial issues and tension where none exists. It serves no purpose. We should be above race baiting and assumptions.”
I don’t know if this is a fair accusation, but the goal of ComebackTown from the very beginning has been “to begin a conversation for a better Birmingham.” We can’t have a dialogue about a better Birmingham without some discussion of race.
Why is race such a big deal here? Race is emphasized in Birmingham because of our government structure.
I’ll name a city and you classify it by race…
Most of you would agree that Mt. Brook, Vestavia, and Trussville are white cities and Birmingham is black.
What about these cities…
No one would classify these cities as white or black. So why do we say Birmingham’s black? Because we have 37 municipalities in Jefferson County who each define themselves by race.
Nashville, Jacksonville, and Charlotte have unified county/city governments and therefore are not definable. They are neither black nor white.
I don’t know if unified government is best for us, but we have created multiple governments that cause us to focus on our differences.
Ambassador Andrew Young, an early Civil Rights leader, spoke to the Downtown Rotary Club recently. He said the most segregated hour in America is Sunday morning at 11am. He said the least segregated is Saturday afternoon at 1pm during football season. He said the State of Alabama is probably the most integrated state in the nation at that time.
Birmingham doesn’t own racism. Racism is everywhere.
Let’s continue our conversation on a better Birmingham—race and all.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).