Is Steven Hoyt evil?

Councilor Steven Hoyt
Councilor Steven Hoyt

When you read some of the remarks by (I assume) white commenters on, you almost have to come to the conclusion that Steven Hoyt is the devil—some kind of black racist.  Councilor Hoyt is the City Council representative from Birmingham’s District 8.

Councilor Hoyt regularly seems to be in the headlines standing up for African-American inclusion when there are economic opportunities for individuals or businesses created by the City of Birmingham.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Last week Jeffrey Bayer, President and CEO of Bayer Properties, and I spoke at the Birmingham Business Journal’s C-Suite awards.  The BBJ annually recognizes high-level executives in the Birmingham business community.  Sitting at the head table, I looked across the room and saw very few black faces.

Was that the fault of the BBJ?—absolutely not.  I attend lots of meetings and events where I interact with top business people.  I don’t see many African-Americans there either.  And this is not a Birmingham thing.  It’s the same when I travel to conventions and conferences throughout the U.S.

Have I just revealed some great unknown secret?  I think not.

So what’s the point?

When I talk with folks all over our region about a better metro Birmingham, I’m often told the reason we are not competitive with our peer cities is because race is a much bigger issue here.

That is true.  Race is a big issue here—but not because people in Birmingham are more racist.

I play a game when I speak to groups.  I tell the audience I’m going to name a city—and I ask them to define that city by race.  I begin with Mt. Brook and Vestavia Hills and the audience gives me an enthusiastic—‘white.’  Then I say ‘Birmingham’ and most everyone responds with a strong—‘black.’

But when I propose ‘Nashville,’ there’s usually a short stunned silence—and then a response of ‘white.’

Is Nashville a white city?

Nashville is a diverse city, but Nashville and Davidson County are consolidated into one entity so racial differences are minimized.

Birmingham is one of 37 municipalities in Jefferson County—many of which are defined by race.

I live and interact primarily in the white community.  I find our white community to be generous and hospitable.  My friends and neighbors are no more racist than the folks in Nashville.  We in metro Birmingham have created an uncomfortable environment by segmenting our governments.

Now back to Councilor Hoyt.

I know Steven.  He’s a brave young man who doesn’t mind saying publicly what many of his constituents are thinking.

The folks who manage our suburbs aren’t waking up each day with a desire to create diversity.  So is it wrong for Councilor Hoyt to stand up for his constituents?

I’ll let you answer that question.

But if metro Birmingham is going to be competitive—we must find a way to unite our communities so we can quit squabbling over race.

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 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).

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7 thoughts on “Is Steven Hoyt evil?”

  1. *Racial division is not going to change through any government program. The hearts and minds of the people need to change. Pastor Chris Hodges knows how to build healthy multigenerational, multicultural churches. Go to Church of the Highlands and you will see this, talk to him and you will learn a lot about leadership and reaching out to the hurting in our city. The local church is the hope of the world and the only thing that will save this city. It is embarrassing that in 2014 we are still having the same old conversations with the same old tired solutions that do not work!! Wake up people!!

  2. *David- In many of those same high-level meetings, there were probably not many women either. 

    I often think about the unraveling of Just for Feet.  I wonder if their story would have turned out differently if there had been an African-American on the Board or in upper management there to suggest that perhaps that now infamous Super Bowl commercial was a bad idea.  In this case, the lack of diversity in leadership had enormous dollars and cents implications.  

    I also think about the fact that women either directly make or influence over 70 percent of purchasing decisions in our economy, yet so many of the companies that provide those goods and service are led exclusively by men.  I don’t know if this can be attributed to arrogance, shortsightedness or just plain laziness.  Whatever the reason, I believe this way of thinking is ultimately detrimental to the long-term success of any organization.  Just ask Just for Feet!   

  3. *We need more men like Brother Steven Hoyt who speak truth to power.Only through education and entreprenurship can poverty be eliminated in the inner City of Birmingham. I am all for collaberation between city and county government and our public schools  but NOT  consolidation by legislative act or law. Ask the decision makers at the BBJ why none of us were invited to the panel event to talk about race and economics  that David Sher mentions. I see nothing wrong with RACE and economics being a positive factor as we are are all human and need to respect and embrace our cultural differences in this valley.   Until we understand that Councilor Hoyt was elected to be an advocate for the Black Business community and focus on the barriers such as acess to capital and meaningful employment then we will continue to not be as competitive as we could be if we truly embraced and practiced results focused racial diversity in all we do.

    Peace Be Unto You,

    George Munchus

    Professor of Management at UAB 



  4. *Interesting observations.  Much the same (like Nashville) can be said about Louisville, Knoxville, Mobile…

  5. *Dr. King once wrote that racial peace and understanding will be

    achieved through “the fact of contact”. By this he meant that whites

    and persons of color will progress to a transformation of minds and

    hearts through interactions in everyday human endeavors, growing

    in an awareness of each person’s shared humanity. Dr., King’s hope

    and dream of progressing to become “the beloved community”,

    in my opinion, also requires a humility on each person’s part to

    recognize the role of Divine Intervention in leading us to that desired

    and worthy goal.


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