By Lon McNeil
If you’ve lived in Albany most of your life, or even for just a few years, then you know the reality of Lee County’s growth; it’s in direct proportion to the growing problems in Albany. “White flight”, as it’s been called, has been going on for decades. Money, mostly white money, has opted to take the easy way out of addressing the problems of crime and poverty here. They don’t. Instead, they have left, taking with them the tax revenue that would have provided the much needed funds for Albany to fight those same problems. In effect, the rapid growth of Lee County has only expedited the decline of Albany.
Yet, these same folks that fled to their creek homes and country roads, depend on the jobs and businesses that Albany still offers, even under the massive social pressures such a decline brings. I have heard many whites say that Albany is overrun with poor blacks because so many black women have so many children they cannot support. That is a genuine problem that needs to be faced, mostly by the black community itself. But the other factor in the racial percentage shift of Albany is that so many whites have moved away to Lee County. Simply put, these white people want all the benefits of living near a larger city; they just don’t want to live among so many black people. Truth hurts.
Who it hurts, is everyone. If you really have that kind of bigotry driving your social and geographical leanings, then really move where there are no black people, and not just across a county line so that you are not technically responsible for Albany anymore. If that’s the issue, there are plenty of places to live in this country where there are hardly any black people at all. But, they cannot do that, because many of these same white folks that fled from the growing black majority of here, run businesses in Albany that depend on blacks for cheap labor and customers. It’s a real pickle.
The battle for economic development between these fighting sister cities is silly. It’s not like we have massive amounts of opportunities to squander between us. Just like the in-fighting that goes on within the two communities themselves, Albany and Leesburg only hurt each other with this ‘separate and unequal’ policy. Lee County has been doing everything in its power to develop the infrastructure to support this Albany exodus and attract new industry for a long time. What’s ironic is that their efforts will one day make them large enough to have some of the same crime and poverty concerns Albany now lives with. Then where will they go?
The other side-effect of Lee County’s growth and Albany’s decline is that some of the new residents north of the Good Life City, are black. Professionals that have moved to the area, and others that have managed to move up in the economic strata, are opting for that same quiet, crime-free dream of Lee County as well; proof, that blacks prefer safe streets just as much as whites. Go figure.
Lon McNeil is an independent marketing consultant in Albany.