The nuances of the 2007 mayoral campaign in Birmingham, Alabama have begun, despite efforts to the contrary. Though it speaks to a much broader issue.
Councilwoman Valerie Abbott presented a resolution at the most recent city council meeting that has been adopted by “…167 cities and towns in 40 states, representing more than 16.9 million people” according to the National League of Cities official website, specifically the page describing their Partnership for Working Towards Inclusive Communities. Rather than repost the resolution here for those that are not familiar with it, I’ll link to Kathy’s post of the document. I found it slightly disturbing that the resolution did not pass, especially considering this council’s somewhat public record of supporting initiatives that would lead the city towards what many consider its rightful place among the South’s elite. I’d read before hopping on a plane for an extremely long flight back from Seattle that the resolution would be reintroduced with opportunities to tweak as necessary, so I figured that it was only a matter of time before the council approved words that better reflected their agenda, though I was starting to doubt just what that agenda is.
Then, as I’m getting ready to run the Cooper River Bridge Run Saturday morning (I’m runner #26726 – results are normally up late Saturday if you’re interested) I decide to hop on my friend’s laptop and see what the latest is from town. Imagine my surprise when I see that a resolution will be introduced at Tuesday meeting by Frank Matthews apologizing for slavery that will be introduced by Councilor Hoyt. (FYI – comments are closed for the linked News article post.)
At first glance, it would make some sense, except when you realize that the city of Birmingham did not exist until after the end of the Civil War. Slavery could be pointed to as a reason for the levels of racial discrimination that still at times seem to permeate the city even as members of the same race nitpick about what it truly means to be “black” or “white” as we progress into the 21st century. I guess it bothers me plenty considering that this will probably be finished at 1 a.m. and I have to be awake at 5:20 a.m. (though you probably won’t be reading this until 7:30 a.m., about the time every year when I ask myself why in the world am I getting ready to run over this bridge AGAIN?) Read on though…
The level of childishness that this recent development shows to our neighbors and our fellow cities is one that we should be ashamed of. But are we? One of the main reasons that some still see images of fire hoses and dogs turned loose on crowds during demonstrations is because many still choose to wave the flag without providing leadership towards a proper example of how to move forward. The civil rights movement is needed more now than ever before, and not just for African Americans. It’s needed for Caribbean Americans, it is needed for Asian Americans, foreign nationals that choose to come to this country for a chance that we told them was available, for women, and for gays and lesbians.
For those that choose to beat the Bible against their chest and take the written word of God as irrefutable, I ask that they remember that they are not without their own sin either. Denouncing people due to their choice of life partner is no less of a sin as it is to denounce or disapprove because of the color of their skin, or to kill someone due to their religious beliefs. One group has always suffered as a result of another’s belief in superiority. One of our national civil rights leaders once asked that we one day judge by the content of one’s character. This most recent set of events, even if only eluded to, have given me plenty of reasons to judge a few people quite differently.
There are many that need to remember that the movement for civil rights was taking a turn towards including more than just “minorities” in the months leading up to Dr. King’s assassination. Saturday’s MLB exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians is aimed at stressing the importance that the national pastime had on the country’s continuing struggle with racial inequality. While the game will take a moment to honor both Blacks and Latinos, the attention will be shifted to a recent study that says that African Americans are playing baseball less than they have in several decades. The game is in fact a barometer of how we are as a nation; one that tolerates, but only what we want to, despite claiming to be a free haven for all; one that celebrates those that draw attention for all of the wrong reasons and that struggles with how to honor those that do what they can quietly. And, similarly to the resulting vote last Tuesday, one that says that it represents all, but then is selective in just what that exactly means.
I do hope that those that say they seek the creative class of young professionals that are coveted by all first and second tier cities realize that by not even symbolically accepting the one thing this group holds dearly – diversity, true diversity – will be very costly.
Comments? (Realizing that I will be very sore after the race…)