Black folks are moving into your neighborhoods

Nothing makes me angrier than to see anti-Birmingham; anti-black comments following my blog.

The racial comments are usually insinuated, but they are there—none the less.

There’s a community of people in our region who accuse Birmingham of failing and blame African-Americans for it.

The purpose of this blog is to create a discussion on better government for our region, but quite frankly, I’m struggling to get everyone’s attention.

Improving our metro government structure is critical because we are losing our children and grandchildren to cities where they have greater opportunities and we’re losing our largest companies which contribute to our community and create good jobs.

The headline above is a Hail Mary attempt to get our negative friends’ attention.

Our Birmingham population loss used to be “white flight;” now it’s “black” flight.

Statistics shows African Americans are escaping the city of Birmingham in record numbers.  Why are they leaving? Well, for the same reasons as many of the whites: Better schools, safer neighborhoods and a solid retail and shopping base.

The truth is, despite our differences, we’re all pretty much the same. While flight is a personal choice, it’s also a migration pattern that destroys regions from the inside out. The region cannot survive without a strong central city – that is a statistical fact.

But that’s not what’s bringing us down.  It’s not just our fears of each other that are eating us up, but our refusal to work together, to share resources, to learn from each other. Remember, we don’t own racism.  Racism is universal.

What we do own is a divisive government that drives us apart. In the end, it’s not the anti-Birmingham sentiment that’s killing our community. It’s the anti-“us.”

Let’s turn Birmingham around. Click here to sign up for our  newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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12 thoughts on “Black folks are moving into your neighborhoods”

  1. *David.  Since my return to Alabama and deciding to settle in Birmingham, I’ve witnessed and been a part of efforts such as yours to identify and overcome differences between Black and White.  If we could only reduce it to differences between “people”.  To address the economic concerns that you identify, it will take a clear, determined coming together of a few to reach the many on all sides.  Personally, I’m sick and tired of the “old guard” views of White from Black folk and conversley the “old guard” view of Black from White folk.  An effort to change this must be clear, determined and unfortunately funded. 

    Most folks think it is alright the way that it is, or, being in the Bible Belt, the Lord will make the changes when necessary.  We have two now, 1 Black Pastor and a Journalist.  Who else will join to set a determined effort to produce change on both sides?  I’m with ya!

  2. I’m not so sure that the answer lies in a metro government structure or in the city government because I’ve lived in a progressive city that had the exact form of government and the same problems we do but the neighborhoods themselves were diverse and many were thriving.  It makes me feel powerless to point to an institution and think I need to change that in order to see any real change. 

    In my old neighborhood in Buffalo, NY, people got out and worked together at the community level through their neighborhood associations and by volunteering even outside them to help one another.  Some of that was helping neighbors work on their houses (beginning now in some of our neighborhoods), pick up trash and solve community problems – together. 

    I picked up the trash on my entire street in Buffalo, and I do it here.  It’s what I can contribute right now.  Others can volunteer time, help neighbors paint their houses, attend neighborhood association meetings…

    I’m convinced that we will not see leadership in this city or region come from the top down.  It will be from the community/resident level and that’s what will create lasting change in Birmingham. 

    1. Emily, what great insight. If we had more people in metro Birmingham like you, we would have a much better community.

      I’m also not sure that metro government is the solution. But there are many things we can do to improve our government structure.

      Thanks for your daily service. Please continue to give your feedback.

  3. People in AA say that , “Drinking is just a symptom of the lager problem.” Racism is a symptom of the real problem, deeply embedded self interest. Until we have people in leadership positions in this community who don’t use government to line their own pockets and who don’t sacrifice the greater good of Birmingham for their own gains, we will continue to have more of the same. In just about every case where a Birmingham politician got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, a cry of racism was made. When the leaders of one of our institutuions are dragging their feet on a beneficial and necessary change , somebody usually ends up getting caught lining his pockets from the public coffers. Some stunning examples of this are Larry Langford  and Edward Maddox.Did they do what they did because they were black ? Of course not , they were just crooked. Did they use race as a smoke screen to cover their tracks…you bet they did. When you are bent , you use whatever method is the most expedient to achive your nefarious goals and line your own pockets. Do people like that set the community back everytime they pull their shenanigans…..absolutely! The reason we have the fragmented governmental system we are stuck with is because nobody is willing to give up their personal fiefdom and forgoe a chance to line their pockets, regardless of whether its good or bad for the people they claim to represent.This is just as true in Mountain Brook as it is in Wylam. When I hear politicians defend the duplication of regulations and services that we have, they always say, ” My people would not be as well taken care of if we had a centralized system of services.” What they really mean is that THEY would not be as well taken care of….. I’ve heard that excuse in every municipality in the area.When we wake up and stop electing people who promise to take care of ME instead of people who will take care of US, we can start to make some real progress.

  4. *I am the pastor of a very small church in the community of East Lake.  The community I serve has been spiraling downward since I moved to the South Roebuck neighborhood 18 years ago.  There are many reasons for this, white flight is one of them.  However there are several larger issue that seem to be ignored by most folks.

    The first issue is within the communities themselves.  We are going into the 3rd generation of child parents in the most economically depressed communities of our region.  This fact is a huge factor in poverty, crime, exploitation, and according to the CDC the huge presence of Aides/HIV in these communities in the age group of 13-25. 

    We keep looking at our schools to solve the problems when our schools are not the problem.  The erosion of parenting skills and the lose of family values and strong character traits such as work ethics, honest, patriotism, pride in community being transferred from generation to generation.  Education is no longer a priority for many in our economically depressed communities.  It’s all about style above substance.

    So now we have communities, both well-to-do and impoverished, .only involved politically for solely selfish reasons.  But when we address the issue of white flight and black flight, we are viewing the results which is talent flight.  Our best and brightest are not being educated here and are not returning post secondary. The reasons for this are many, but the two main reasons are lack of opportunity and the lack of examples of community cooperation.

    I have one major example of white flight, black flight, talent flight.  When I moved to South Roebuck in the early 90’s, I was impressed by the schools, economic development, and recreation opportunities.  There were 2 very large community run recreation organizations, South Roebuck and Huffman Park.  South Roebuck closed it’s gates and left the park to be over run by weeds.  Alabama Power owned the land and all attempts to re-establish the park have failed.

    Then there is Huffman-Roebuck Park on Red Lane Road.  I brought my children to this park shortly after the white flight took place.  Being a good citizen and good dad, I volunteered at the park.  Over time I began to get much information about it’s issues.  What I found was quite disturbing.  I will just say the whites left the park and took all the money, financial records and equipment.  Most folks think the park is a city park when in fact it is a non-profit community owned enterprise.  Once the whites left sponsorship and funding dried up.  I don’t want to be long winded but I would love to tell the whole story,,, someday.

    1. Pastor Crews, please feel free to use this blog as a forum to tell your story. You obviously have experiences that give us a better understanding of our history. However, let’s see what we can do to look forward. We can’t undo our messy past. Please continue to give us your thoughts and suggestions.

  5. David,
    Great writing! Thank you for keeping this dialogue alive. It’s needed.

    I agree with your comments. At the individual level, there is a solution. Have you heard of the phrase “you don’t have any skin in the game” coined by Warren Buffet? It means people show their commitment and belief in a cause when they’re financially invested in those causes. If you own a home in Vestavia and pay taxes there, then you have skin in the game in Vestavia. If you only commute to downtown Birmingham for work or ocassionally visit the area, then you have no skin in the game. Other medium to large cities in the U.S. saw various levels of city center revitilization during the 90’s & early 2000s. The reasons to explain why it happened there are too many and too debatable to discuss in this posting. But, I submit if you want to be part of the solution, then you have to put your money where your mouth is. Unfortunately, when you start discussing money, well, a lot of the most vocal complainers are silenced.
    And, for those who share my opinion, I would love to hear from you if you want to put some skin in the game. I believe Birmingham can be re-developed into a city where people desire to live and work. Yes, I’m talking about people investing in real estate in Birmingham. Are there people who want to do that? These people need to meet each other and start making plans together. Perhaps it’s a matter of doing it one block at a time. Focus on that and leave the government “leadership” to do whatever they do.
    I am 41, was born in Birmingham, raised in Mountain Brook but moved away. I am connected to the region & city because my parents, relatives, and friends live here. But I live in Chicago now, where it’s very desirable to live downtown or anywhere close by. I have given thought to returning to Birmingham but see the same issues everyone else sees.

    1. David, thanks for your thoughts. You and your young peers are the primary purpose of this blog. We are losing way too many talented young people to other cities. This great loss of talent, like yourself, is one of our biggest weaknesses. BTW, I just read in the REV Birmingham newsletter (previously ONB), between 2000 and 2010 the population in the City Center grew 32% and rental residential units in the City Center remain at near 99% occupancy.

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