Fifty years after the civil rights movement, race is still a big deal in Albany. In reality, it may well be a big chunk of what is actually wrong in this community. Many in the black community still see racism behind every nook and crany, while now many whites see every matter that doesn’t go there way as a concerted effort by blacks to twart them.
Sometimes, they’re right. Sometimes, they’re not. However, blaming racism right off the bat doesn’t do anyone any good.
No one who is honest about our city’s history will deny that racism was once a significant problem in Albany. It was. Albany is the site of one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s few failures during his efforts to gain equal rights for blacks. That failure had nothing to do with a lack of racism either. It was most definitely here.
Fifty years later, there are a heck of a lot fewer whites who can be described as racist these days. Are there still some around? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. However, they no longer have any power in this neck of the woods. They’re the last remnants of a breed on the edge of extinction, though I doubt we’ll ever truly be rid of them.
Today, race relations are less a matter of real racism and more a matter of resentment for past wrongs that just can’t be let go.
Every so often, something will happen, and a few people will start to beat the drum, exclaiming that racism is to blame for all the ills of the world. Opposition to the hiring of Dr. Joshua Murfree as superintendent was one such recent example. In a heartbeat, opposition to Dr. Murfree became a matter of race rather than his complete lack of experience for such a position, questions about favoritism on the Dougherty County Board of Education, how he had been ranked among the lowest of the potential candidates at the beginning of the process, or how the BoE had broken a promise to present the three finalists to the community for input prior to making a decision.
Those who claimed race was the root of the problem seemed to forget that Dr. James Culbreth had also served as superintendent and had been generally well regarded by both blacks and whites in Dougherty County.
Race was never an issue with Murfree, at least not for the majority of us who opposed his hiring. The pathetically poor job he did as superintendent was proof that we were right in our concerns, but none of those voiced concerns had anything to do with his race. It was his lack of experience.
Yet that didn’t stop many from arguing otherwise.
To be fair though, whites are just as bad. I can’t tell you how many times someone has claimed that they have been the victim of reverse racism, only to find out that they just screwed up and THAT was why they got fired, or someone just happened to be better qualified than they were.
That’s not to say racism doesn’t happen. It does.
What we need to do is very simple though. Each Albanian, white or black or something else entirely, need to realize that we are in this boat together. If Albany thrives, weall thrive. Every last one of us. If it fails, we all suffer. Every last one of us.
However, do you think potential employers don’t do a little research on the towns they’re looking at? People running the operation are generally transplants, and no company worth its salt will want to transfer an employee to the last bastion of hate they can find. It doesn’t matter what the skin tone of the individual is, they don’t want their best and brightest to have to live someplace like that. If they do, those best and brightest are going to jump ship and go with another company.
I’m not saying we should pretend that racism never happens. No, it does, and when we know that it’s racism, we need to join together to denounce it, no matter which way it swings (and it does happen to whites as well, make no mistake).
Instead, we need to quit assuming that it’s racism from the start and find out why something happened with an open mind. We need to give our fellow man the benefit of the doubt until there is evidence that we shouldn’t any longer. Then, with information in hand, we can call out the offender and do what we can to ensure it never happens again.
Once we can get past race as such a significant factor in our lives, then maybe we can all pull together to pull our town out of the mess we’ve been in for over 30 years.