A friend from Mountain Brook recently sent me an article about Southlake, Texas that turned my stomach.
Southlake is a city that appears to have a lot in common with Mountain Brook.
Southlake is an “elite, mostly white suburb 30 miles northwest of Dallas (that) has a reputation as one of the best places in the country to raise a family, thanks in large part to its highly ranked public school system: The Carroll Independent School District, home of the Dragons, where the median home costs $650,000 and average SAT scores are good enough to get students into top-tier universities.”
Mountain Brook might similarly be described as ‘an elite, mostly white suburb South of Birmingham that has a reputation as one of the best places in the country to raise a family, thanks in large part to its highly ranked public school system where the median home costs $699,000 and average SAT scores are good enough to get students into top-tier universities.’
Each community, however, has experienced a dark incident.
In 2018 a student at Carroll High School in Southlake posted a Snapchat video showing several white high school students laughing as they filmed themselves shouting the N-word at a party that went viral.
Last year a Mountain Brook Facebook group posted a Snapchat video of a high school student with two large black swastikas and the word ‘heil’ scrawled on his back while a group of boys laughed at him that also went viral.
The 2018 Southlake video triggered an immediate reaction from school leaders. “The district hosted listening sessions with parents and students, gathering numerous accounts of racist, xenophobic and anti-gay comments… Afterward, the school board created a diversity council of more than 60 parents, teachers and students to come up with a plan to make Carroll more welcoming and inclusive.”
The Mountain Brook’s School System likewise responded to its video by forming a 17 member blue ribbon Diversity Committee to examine its efforts to “enhance structures and practices to ensure that the school district honors individual differences, diversity, and the dignity of all, and that all members of the school community are treated with respect.”
But Southlake’s well-intentioned efforts had an unexpected backlash.
“The school board unveiled a plan that would require diversity and inclusion training for all students as part of the K-12 curriculum.”
“Within days, outraged parents — most of them white — formed a political action committee and began packing school board meetings to voice their strong opposition. Some denounced the diversity plan as ‘Marxist’ and ‘leftist indoctrination’ designed to ‘fix a problem that doesn’t exist.'”
“The dispute grew so heated that parents on both sides pulled children out of the school system, while others made plans to move out of town. One mother sued the district, successfully putting the diversity plan on hold.”
Mountain Brook, fortunately, appears to be headed in a more positive direction.
A local diversity and inclusion advocacy group, MB Listens, has been organized with a vision “for everyone, regardless of ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status; to be accepted, welcomed, and treated equally in Mountain Brook.”
Kevin Cornes, Chairman of MB Listens, wrote in a recent column for ComebackTown, that the initial response to MB Listens demonstrates two things: “(1) there are many in our community that want to be accepted for who they are and feel welcome in Mountain Brook; and (2) there are many more who want to open their hearts, listen, learn, and be a part of the solution.”
According to Mountain Brook Patch, “MB Listens…recognizes that the school district has been working for some time now on studying the feasibility of several key initiatives regarding diversity and inclusion. (It) believe(s) the timing is perfect to immediately adopt one of those initiatives: a new policy that would allow the children of MBS faculty and staff, who do not reside in the district, to attend Mountain Brook Schools.”
The Mountain Brook School System is the only system in our area that does not allow children of full time-employees to attend its schools.
Mountain Brook Patch goes on to say, “Mountain Brook City Schools received an ‘A+’ in every category but one: Diversity. The system received a ‘D+’ in that category, while excelling in the categories of Academics, teachers, Activities, College Prep and Health and Safety.”
I talked with Kevin Cornes of MB Listens before I published this piece and he said that “the response has been positive with everyone showing a lot of empathy and determination to make real progress.”
We should not be proud of our racial history, but Birmingham and Mountain Brook often seem to get a bad rap because of the actions of few bad players in the past.
Mountain Brook people are overwhelmingly kind, decent people, who want the best for their children and community.
Mountain Brook is not Southlake.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. 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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