Why politics in Birmingham default to race

William Mohammad, member Birmingham Water Works Board
William Mohammad, Birmingham Water Works Board
David Carrington, member Jefferson County Commission
David Carrington, member Jefferson County Commission

I’ve never met William Muhammad, the newly reappointed member of the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB)—so I’m unable to comment on his character.

However, I’ve known Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington for many years and can strongly testify that he’s not a racist.

In fact, Commissioner Carrington is a poster child for ‘inclusiveness.’

When I organized a committee of corporate and political leaders to evaluate local governance, Commissioner Carrington was unrelenting to make sure African-Americans were fairly represented.

As I wrote in a previous column, David’s a God-fearing elected official who is not worried about being popular, but what’s best for Jefferson County.

So when Mr. Muhammad accused Commissioner Carrington of “a form of racism where whites undertake to regulate the conduct of blacks under their authority…” I was dumbfounded.

The back story

The Birmingham Water Works Board voted recently to terminate its contract with Jefferson County to collect sewer fees.

When the County Commissioners tried to negotiate the contract, the BWWB proposed doubling the fees.

Commissioner Carrington in an effort to get the BWWB to reverse its decision released a very aggressive public statement aimed at the Water Works Board:

“Your ‘hostage’ strategy is nothing more than ‘highway robbery’ of the water and sewer rate payers. It will needlessly result in higher water and sewer bills. As such, I call on you to immediately recognize the error of your ways and to expeditiously reverse your decision and ‘stand down.”

I’m not going to take sides on the collection of water fees, but I don’t see any hint of racism in Commissioner Carrington’s high-spirited denunciation.  His concern appears to be for the ratepayers–who are both black and white.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mohammad attacked Commissioner Carrington’s comments as racist–a response that is much too common among our local politicians.

Making race an issue is unproductive and drives us apart.

We in Birmingham have divided ourselves, our municipalities and our agencies by race.

Mountain Brook is white; the city of Birmingham is black; Vestavia Hills is white; The Birmingham Water Works Board is black; our State Legislature is white.  Do I need to go on?

The magnitude of racial sorting is not true of our competing Southern cities.  Though we hang a label of ‘black’ on Birmingham, cities like Nashville, Charlotte, and Louisville have unified county/city governments that do not separate themselves by race.

Black versus white has a history of wrecking our community and we should not tolerate it.

We dream of a Birmingham where our youth can prosper.

It’s time we demand that our politicians not lash out at one another with unsubstantiated racial accusations to defend their positions.

When they do, we all lose.

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 Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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One thought on “Why politics in Birmingham default to race”

  1. Thank you David for your critique. If we could get beyond race we would be unstoppable. We have such great natural resources here, such beauty. The only thing holding us back is our filtering every decision through the racial prism first.

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