I haven’t written a true Ramble in a long time and I’m somewhat hesitant to post this one. Hearing about the latest book from Juan Williams, I felt compelled to add my voice to the discussion that is undoubtedly taking place.
Reading the latest in the District 54 debacle (courtesy of Birmingham Blues) and following several news stories throughout the city and region right now, I wonder if we will ever truly live in an area where race, religious belief or sexual orientation is not the only or major label that defines you. Race was not the first thing that came to mind when I first visited Birmingham, though it guided my exploration of the city, including trips to the Civil Rights Institute and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Race did not enter my mind when I applied for my current job and decided to make the Magic City my home though I was told by many that it should have been. It has become increasingly obvious that race is viewed as the deciding factor in most things here in the nearly two years since my arrival in the Magic City.
I’ve been involved in several conversations where the issue will eventually lead to race. If we truly believe that we can be a New South city, our mindset has to change to one that has been getting adopted by those that we compare ourselves to. We need to stop acting like there is an invisible wall up that separates Over the Mountain from the rest of the city and even some Black and Latino neighborhoods from white neighborhoods (and each other). The glass wall has got to go as well that appears to set up along I-65 and I-20/59. People need to feel as comfortable in West End and Ensley as they are in Southside or Crestline Village. Efforts have been made to force diversity whenever possible, and that is great. I hope we don’t try to push diversity so much that it results in the opposite occurring; people becoming more and more fragmented.
There are many times where it is Blacks now looking down at other minorities even though there are still major issues in race relations between Blacks and whites. Black residents in this town are also quick to immediately try to shoot down any person that does not act like the majority. That being said, I’m not blind and stupid, not realizing that hatred still exists in ways that are unimaginable. I am still aware of things done that are definitely related to and based on race. These efforts need to be identified and actions taken to stop them as soon as possible.
I’ve written that communication is the key and that young people with their idealistic view of the world provide an excellent opportunity to lead our city through the 21st century. I believe that unless we change the fact that race does more to divide the city of Birmingham than anything else that, we will never move forward as a city or a metropolitan area. Recent events have made me wonder if we’re ready to move past that. It is still an “us versus them” mentality here. It does exist elsewhere, but it feels as though it’s become an art form in Birmingham, a city that is held up as having changed the world in this regard. Those that “act white” are ostracized though I’m not exactly sure that “acting black” doesn’t cause a similar unfair reaction. Those waiting for a leader to take up the banner and wave it, look in the mirror and realize that you must be willing to do so yourself.
I love most everything about this city, and I get up every morning with a goal of working to make it everything that it can be. Otherwise, I’d “take my ball and go home.” I want to know what it is going to take to get what I believe is the last barrier keeping us from truly moving forward.
Let me know what you think and maybe I’ll see you out tonight,