Pollyannish white man: ‘B’ham has reached a tipping point’

Maury Shevin
Maury Shevin

Today’s guest columnist is Maury Shevin.

If you’d like to be a guest columnist, please click here.

A few weeks have passed since our nation and our city erupted in righteous revulsion to the killing of George Floyd.

Like many, I am still putting events into perspective, but  Floyd’s death can only be described as a 21st Century lynching.

Nationwide, establishment apologists want me to focus on Mr. Floyd’s criminal record.  Reformist who want to defund police want me to focus on a system that is irrefutably racist and they assert, irreparably broken.

Closer to home, some of my friends consider the destruction of property in Birmingham to be outlandish.  Others consider the rage of injustice to support more than merely trying to tear down the symbol of the system—the Confederate Monument in Linn Park.

Reactionary friends point and say, “see, we told you so—an excuse for anarchy and looting.”  Radicals point and say, “the only thing that the entrenched power structure ever understands is a response that tears down an antiquated and unresponsive system.”

But, let’s step back and take a look at the response in Birmingham.

On a macro level, after a Sunday night of anxiety and outrage, our political, civic and religious leaders stepped forward, inspiring confidence and channeling the rage.  And, with the “in your face” removal of the monument by the Woodfin Administration, Birmingham is once again leading the state down the path of social justice—the pathway that Alabama seems to always want to avoid taking.

On a micro level, there are conversations going on everywhere and at every level as to “what I can do to make a difference.”  There has been an outpouring of concern and emotion by those Whites who have always known of injustice suffered by Blacks, but who have sat on the sidelines.  There is for the first time in a long time, a serious discussion of “white privilege” and just what that means.

I may be a Pollyanna, but from my vantage point, Birmingham’s people—of all walks of life—are no longer satisfied to sit idly by as observers.  I think we have reached a tipping point—at least, I hope so.  As many have said, this problem of systemic racism is not a Black problem;  it was created by White people; and, it is only going to be resolved with real collaboration of all people.

I have heard so many thoughtful comments, written and spoken.  There is a buy-in to do something meaningful.

In my religion, our responsibility is to seek to repair the world—tikkun olam.  Our Rabbis teach:  “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

I have circled “May 25, 2021” on my calendar—one year from the date that George Floyd was killed.  My hope and prayer is that by then we will have taken meaningful, positive steps toward realizing our more perfect union of one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

It is past time that we got down to business.

Maury Shevin—passionate about the City of Birmingham–lives, works, thinks and plays on Birmingham’s Southside.

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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).

Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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15 thoughts on “Pollyannish white man: ‘B’ham has reached a tipping point’”

  1. RE: “…righteous revulsion to the killing of George Floyd.”

    Yes, absolutely. Revulsion, anger, and sadness were entirely appropriate. But NOT indiscriminate destruction of public and commercial property and looting by Black AND young White people. Those actions were criminal and placed a wedge between the Blacks and the Whites who are desperately trying to start a new, positive narrative in this troubled town.

    I have learned from elderly friends that they are moving from their condos near Railroad Park and downtown because “(They) just don’t need this any more.”

    I was told about wholesale destruction to street level businesses and condos in this area. THIS is why Birmingham, “can’t have anything nice.” I sure don’t recall anything about such details on the local media. Since I moved here in 1978, things start to get great and then some senseless murder or riot throws everything in reverse…over and over and over. I’m surprised Publix wasn’t broken into and looted. I guess we’re going to need metal-rod sliding doors over all the business and residential property fronts from now on.

    OK, Birmingham has a Black mayor, police chief, and fire chief, a Black majority on the city council, and now, a Black chief executive of the Birmingham Business Alliance. Let’s see if they can come up with a workable solution since previous efforts have not worked.

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful and impassioned piece. From my personal perspective, the biggest challenge has always been seeing the invisible. What exactly are the structural barriers and how can we pull them down? And high on that list–how can we give black youth the education and experiences they need to push past those barriers? Alabama has always fought making education a “right” because they feared they would be sued for not providing equal support to all schools. And even past that, money is not all of the answer. What is? What do we need to do? We have to figure that out and do it.

    1. It would have been helpful, 30-40 years ago, if the White-flight out of Birmingham and Jefferson County had not created a private and “church-based” White educational system to get kids out of the public (integrated) education. Yes, yes, yes, we all know those schools are open to all. But Briarwood and other private and “Christian” systems are not cheap…anyone can attend IF they can pony up the funds, past the tests, or afford to live in Homewood, Mt. Brook, or Vestavia. The same house I sold in Homewood in 1986 for $65K was recently selling for $400K. Do you understand “gentrification?” We have created a separate but NOT equal school system and everybody knows why…but won’t admit to it or discuss it. I experienced the same thing in Montgomery in the mid-’90s…it’s state-wide. Rather than stay in the public system, Whites pulled out and created their own majority White systems based on “Christian” ideals. Really!? Nobody will public own up to or discuss this.

      1. Very True Karl.

        This very blog has the byline…”Comeback Town, to begin a conversation about a better Birmingham.” No on wants to get to the root of the problem. Nobody want to discuss race. Mr. Sher himself admits he chooses to reside Over the Mountain because of the school system. Yet he desires to find a solution to a problem that he is unwilling to discuss. Many people can’t make or are unwilling to make the connection between race and unequal educational opportunities, which then leads to unequal employment opportunities, which then leads to unequal opportunities to create wealth.

        Folks in Birmingham and the South in general would rather do as so many white people did in the 60’s and just ignore the problems of race and talk of pleasantries. It’s the Junior Club/Country Club mentality….I may not pay for membership in a club but my neighborhood is essentially an exclusive club starting in the low $500Ks.

        I would love to see this site finally do what the byline proclaims…”to begin a conversation about a better Birmingham.” That conversation can’t be done without being honest and to be honest race has to be the driving force or topic.

        1. Johnny, I very much appreciate your comments and would welcome a conversation on race. I primarily depend of guest columnist and ask for guest columnists in every piece. Would you consider writing a column that you feel would help fulfill the mission of ComebackTown? Please click on the following link for details: https://comebacktown.com/guest-bloggers/. As you stated, the purposed of this blog is to create a conversation about a better Birmingham.

        2. This response is very good and very true. One matter I do want to write about: education. This has been a public and political massive mistake continuing forever. Not only must justice be applied equally, I say as son and father of lawyers, so should the best quality of politically neutral education. If you want people to want to live anywhere in city of or metro Birmingham then make it well known as a place that provides the best education, then watch what happens. Citizens have been voting for cheap politicians who have a bad reputation for keeping school funding and teacher pay as low as possible. The damage is ruining us.

          1. Couldn’t have said it better myself, Roy.

            And as for Mt. Brook – I lived there for four years in Crestline in the mid-’90s, and I had kids in the Jr. High and High Schools – ever wonder why they have never annexed Liberty Park or Cahaba Heights? To grow, Mt. Brook would have to accept busing and probable integration of their preciously white school system.

            And as I found out, as well as other families I know did, even IF one can afford the homes in Mt. Brook, unless one is third-generation Brookie natives, it was very difficult to be accepted socially, regardless of one’s career – I was a local hospital department director. It isn’t called “the tiny kingdom” for no reason. Am I bitter? Yes. My kids’ formative years in secondary education were at times miserable, and there was little my wife and I could do to help.

            Here endeth the lesson (rant)…

          2. Way outside ‘Southern Hospitality’ isn’t it? Clearly there has been and still is arrogance but there is also very much friendliness, and it does depend on who you are lucky enough to find who might be willing to engage. If you should see (and you have and will) see people who seem to be prancing around wearing their status symbol clothing, just leave them alone. But you will see others who do not do that. It might be worth trying some of them with a modest and pleasant hello and so on. I do know the old ‘Mountain Brookers’ more than the new ones out there merely trying to appear o live in Mountain brook and trying to climb the ‘high and mighty ladder. I am sad to know that you have been been left aside by people who do not even seem to care about how you could add to the pleasure and other benefits of living there. Well I AM a person who grew up in Mountain Brook and never thought the expression of wealth itself had any value at all. There was one lady whose name I fear to mention, did contribute, but was actually perhaps the farthest ‘beyond the pale.’ I would see here when I was with my parents ready to hear the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra play. She would arrive in a front row seat in front of us, at the very last minute, standing up and looking around to be certain everyone saw her, and then take her seat. It was so ridiculous that I actually found it kind of entertaining. Enough5 of that. Every place has its upside and downside, and you hit one of the downs.

  3. Several early thoughts come instanttly to mind after reading this. Our vocabularies are falling apart. Eg: social justice. Justice is already just justice and includes every one. It is equal even if not practiced equally for all.
    Love thy neighbour as thyself is missing ad the results are terrible.
    ‘Conversations’ are practically useless when compared to discussions and debates. They are just ‘talky-talky.’ This is not to say thee is no value in that, it will just be inconclusive

    Anger management is needed.

    Hating people instead of just their bad actions or inaction, is truly too hateful.

    These issues are not just confined to Birmingham. they are national and even international.

    The basis of an orderly society that has the opportunity to be productive and peaceful is being pulled out from under us.

    The ‘Birmingham Pledge.’ Where did that opportunity to be a city taking a leadership position go? That could be a real positive tipping point for our favorite city. What about the potential for what can happen in the new proposed Forum Center in the Civil Rights District? That place, if built on the designs of Sir Norman Foster, one of the world’s finest architects will definitely stand out.

    DO NOT LET THIS LAND US IN A NEGATIVE DUMP. BE POSITIVE. FIND THE BRIGHT FUTURE!

  4. These articles are a white washing ,let’s stay on the facts , Birmingham is declining in population again . People are leaving and it is not coming back with current leader ship .

    1. FInd, encourage, support fine leaders. Stop waiting for a leader to show up. Stop depending on who knows who has chosen one for you to vote for. Offer yourself?

      I do understand that politicians will always have to expect some opposition and some of it is going to be nasty. If that were not in such a bad and heightened condition now, we might have more decent leaders. It is very difficult to find some that are not just selfish for the attention and power, an opportunity to appear ‘high and mighty.’ Nowdays it is too much like wanting to enter a war zone, and that should not be there, it stops reasoning, and discourse that can become effective decision making and implementation

      1. Tipping point…indeed.

        “8-year-old killed, 3 injured in shooting at Alabama mall”

        The Galleria is well on its way to becoming the Next Century Plaza. I suspect it will be closed within five years. Where’s the media outrage? The cell-phone video hysteria? Where are the protests now?

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