Today’s guest blogger is Robert Milam.
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My heart sank when I read the piece, “Elitists, racists, and snake-oil salesmen built Birmingham,” published on ComebackTown.
My reaction was one of frustration and some embarrassment because it was so focused on the negative parts of Birmingham’s history.
Though I’m sure the piece was historically correct, I failed to see how publishing it would help our community move forward.
I hope that everyone who saw it read past the negative headline and the 40+ paragraphs to get to the last one (Not that the last paragraph offset the previous 40+ paragraphs–but at least it was somewhat upbeat).
Otherwise the piece totally reinforces any negative view that anyone might have about Birmingham—and Birmingham’s reputation doesn’t need any more hits.
We all have the history we have–not the history we would like to have, but to focus only on the negative parts of our history is not helpful in producing a better future for Birmingham.
Did nothing positive happen in Birmingham in its first 100 years or since?
I’m not saying that the negative parts of our history should be forgotten or glossed over. We can and must learn from it, but if we don’t highlight the good things that have happened and continue to happen in our community daily, why would anyone from outside this community ever want to invest here, do business here or move here?
I was born in 1963 when Birmingham was at its lowest point for racial division. Much healing and positive change has taken place over my 56 years and the Birmingham described in the article is not the Birmingham that I know.
Because of Birmingham’s history people here generally try to be nicer to each other than in other cities because we fully know what the alternative looks like.
Birmingham is one of the most generous areas in the country. Look up the charitable giving statistics.
Dr. King famously once said “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.” That is not the Birmingham that I know. When I go to Sunday service at my church the congregation is fully integrated and are focused on our mutual love of Christ not the pigment of anyone’s skin.
Much of Alabama’s natural resources have been owned by out of state interest for 100+ years that don’t always have our best interest at heart. We can’t control that but we can control how we treat each other and I think generally everyone that I come in contact with in this community treats each other with respect. That is the Birmingham that I know.
My job takes me all across the country and what I hear from the people that I meet who have actually been to Birmingham is that “Everyone was so nice there“. That is the Birmingham that I know.
I know it might be appropriate to use the ComebackTown forum to discuss our history, but I would like to challenge the publisher to focus on how we have overcome our scars or learned from it to make a better future.
Some of the ComebackTown authors can continue to be glass half empty or make the choice to promote the great community that we have the privilege to live in.
I challenge everyone to know our history, but use it to motivate you to make Birmingham better.
Robert Milam is a lifelong resident of Birmingham and former Senior Vice President at SouthTrust Bank and Executive Vice President of Regions Bank. He currently travels the country as Director of Acquisitions for Summit Investment Management.
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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).
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