The recent article by Tallahassee Democrat writer Byron Dobson, “Race: An issue too wide to get our arms around”, helped me understand why we live in one of the most racially segregated cities in America and why it may never change.
Mr. Dobson’s article was based on his coverage of a recent Village Square event entitled “Created Equal: A conversation about race and founding ideals and our hometown.”
In his article about the event, Mr. Dobson cites national incidents of racism in Chicago and Minnesota and refers to facebook comments to support his conclusion that race is “an issue too wide to get our arms around.”
There was very little in Mr. Dobson’s article about race and “our hometown.”
I thought, “why hold an event on local issues of race and not discuss local issues of race?
My view is that local leaders, entrenched institutions – including the local media – choose not to address local issues affecting race in fear of upsetting the local power structure. A power structure made up of exclusively progressive Democrats, including African-Americans.
Asking race questions of these leaders – face to face – can be uncomfortable.
Challenging the status-quo with people you see every Sunday at church is difficult.
Putting powerful people on the spot might not get your phone call returned when you need a quote.
Mr. Dobson wrote there is “plenty for us to ponder”, but then he chose to write about the incidents at a Trump rally in Chicago and a racist marketing technique used by a restaurant in Minnesota.
What about Tallahassee?
It is much easier for a writer to stoke the issue of race by referring to incidents far away from Tallahassee, like Chicago and Minnesota, than to pose difficult questions here at home.
Why not ask City Commissioners why they continue to support a regressive fire services fee that removes millions of dollars from African-American neighborhoods? The same type of regressive fire service fee which was voted down in Lakeland, Florida when the NAACP and others asked questions.
Why not ask the County and the City why some on the southside are still not connected to central sewer?
Why not question School Board members about their votes on policies over the last five years that have resulted in D’s and F’s for southside schools?
When the Mayor of Tallahassee says we are rapidly growing jobs and a national report shows Tallahassee ranks at the bottom in job growth, why not ask him about the disconnect?
These type of questions continue to go unasked and unanswered, year after year.
Mr. Dobson wrote “The forum served its purpose of bringing people together for a few hours to discuss an issue that is hard to address. Nobody went there hoping to find solutions.”
The bottom line is a lot of people are not looking for solutions. They are looking for affirmation from people that think the way they do. They are searching for a warm fuzzy “you are doing a great job.”
For decades leaders have talked and talked. The lack of action by our local leaders has now redefined our community. Inaction has ramifications and the hard data confirms those ramifications.
We are number one in the state in crime rate, a number of studies show we are one of the most economically segregated communities in the United States, and job growth on the southside does not exist.
No matter how uncomfortable, it is time for community leaders -like Mr. Dobson – to focus on Tallahassee, not Chicago and Minnesota.