Happy New Year!
As you are no doubt aware, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the events in Birmingham back in 1963. The current mayor of Birmingham, William Bell, has compared the events that happened in The Magic City to a revolution.
|An actual statue in Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park; snarling dogs won’t attack you in 75 percent black Birmingham today, but “random” black people might|
And he is right.
It was a revolution that swept over the whole world.
But what type of revolution was it? [2013 in Birmingham opens year of commemoration of 1963 civil rights events, 1-1-13, Birmingham News]:
That year, the city received worldwide attention for its racial intolerance. And now, in 2013, Birmingham will observe the 50th anniversary of that pivotal year in the civil rights movement and commemorate the struggle that served as a catalyst to change Birmingham, the United States and the globe.
“The trauma of 1963 was a prerequisite for the change that came later because the sources of resistance were so numerous and so entrenched that there had to be a profound disruption in order to bring about significant change,” said LaMonte, who also served as the former director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Urban Affairs, and as a senior staff member in the administration of Richard Arrington, Birmingham’s first black mayor.
The impact of the Birmingham movement was global, said Lawrence Pijeaux, president and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. He recalled a 2002 visit by South African leaders Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President F.W. deKlerk, both Nobel Peace Prize winners.
“On that occasion, Tutu shared in a luncheon speech that, ‘The courage of civil rights protesters who helped end segregation in Alabama inspired opponents who overthrew apartheid in South Africa,'” Pijeaux recalled.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell has compared the events of 1963 to a revolution. “In 2013, the passing of time allows us to see Birmingham 1963 for what it truly was,” he said. “Historical scholars have called the modern Civil Rights Movement ‘the Second American Revolution.’ And Birmingham 1963 was a key battleground in that revolution.”
The impact of the events in Birmingham were global, that’s for sure. South Africa, as The Economist noted, is dying. Though no one will point out the obvious, it was the events in Birmingham in 1963 that helped destroy the apartheid system – that protected the lives of whites in that nation – of South Africa.
With black people in control of the South African government, a process of radical redistribution of wealth and payback for white racial injustice in the past became the norm (Black Economic Empowerment, anyone?).
Much like life in 2013 Birmingham (a city that is 74 percent black and completely dominated by black political power), South Africa is dying [Cry, the beloved country: South Africa is sliding downhill while much of the rest of the continent is clawing its way up, The Economist, 10-20-12]:
NOT so long ago, South Africa was by far the most serious and economically successful country in Africa. At the turn of the millennium it accounted for 40% of the total GDP of the 48 countries south of the Sahara, whereas Nigeria, three times more populous, lurched along in second place with around 14%. The remainder, in raw economic terms, barely seemed to count. Despite South Africa’s loathsome apartheid heritage, solid institutions underpinned its transition to democracy in 1994: a proper Parliament and electoral system, a good new constitution, independent courts, a vibrant press and a first-world stockmarket. Nelson Mandela, whose extraordinary magnanimity helped avert a racial bloodbath, heralded a rainbow nation that would be a beacon for the rest of Africa.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is not entirely to blame. South Africa has performed worse than its African neighbours in recent years partly because its mature economy is linked more tightly to the rich world, and thus to the rich world’s problems. And the ANC has notched up some genuine achievements—including housing and some welfare services often denied to the poor black majority under apartheid. But the party’s incompetence and outright corruption are the main causes of South Africa’s sad decline.
Since Mr Mandela retired in 1999, the country has been woefully led. For nine years it endured Thabo Mbeki’s race-tinted prickliness, so different from Mr Mandela’s big-hearted inclusiveness. Mr Mbeki’s denial of the link between HIV and AIDS cost millions of lives. After he was deposed by his party in 2008, there was a brief stand-in, Kgalema Motlanthe, before Jacob Zuma took over the presidency in 2009.
Mr Zuma arrived with a mixed reputation. He had had a string of close shaves with the law for both grand corruption and squalid sexual behaviour; in his favour were his charm, homespun intelligence and canny ability to mediate between people and the many factions that make up the ANC. But stuck between the impatient masses stirred up by racial populists such as Julius Malema on the one hand, and anxious capitalists and greedy party bigwigs on the other, he has drifted and dithered, offering neither vision nor firm government.
Worse, Mr Zuma has failed to tackle the scourge of corruption. The ANC under his aegis has sought to undermine the independence of the courts, the police, the prosecuting authorities and the press. It has conflated the interests of party and state, dishing out contracts for public works as rewards for loyalty—hence the bitter jest that the government is in hock to “tenderpreneurs”. This has reduced economic competitiveness and bolstered a fabulously rich black elite. As a result, too little wealth trickles down.
Nearly two decades after apartheid ended, South Africa is becoming a de facto one-party state. The liberal opposition—the Democratic Alliance (DA), led by a doughty white woman and former anti-apartheid journalist, Helen Zille—has the right ideas, calling above all for the ANC to respect the constitution. The DA has made electoral gains, climbing to 17% of the vote in the last general election in 2009 and 24% in local elections last year. It runs Cape Town and the encompassing Western Cape province better than the ANC runs most of the rest of the country. But most blacks see the DA as too white, and still have a deep-seated loyalty to the ANC—whatever its failings—as the party of Mr Mandela and liberation. That still gives the ANC over 60% of the vote. For the foreseeable future the DA has no earthly chance of national power.
Is there a connection between the economic and moral climate of South Africa and Birmingham in 2013 and the events that occurred in that hallowed year of 1963?
White people in the United States, Europe, and South Africa exist in a paradigm where the ruling – governing – philosophy dictates that white people are to blame for every misfortune the black people in their midst encounter; black people are never, ever to be blamed for the conditions they create for themselves, when the twin evils of white racism and privilege can be quickly applied.
In “The Most Segregated City in America: city Planning and Civil Rights in Birmingham, 1920-1980” by Charles E. Connerly, we learn what life is like in Birmingham post-1963:
Overall, 91.5 percent of the population in the city’s thirteen ghetto poverty tracts was black… For residents who lived in these neighborhoods, poverty in the 1990s was commonplace; unemployment was three times greater than the metropolitan area average; and the majority of families were headed by a single female. Birmingham was no unique in having such concentrated poverty… Nevertheless, Birmingham stood out in 1990 among large cities as having one of the ten most impoverished populations in the nation. While the basic housing and infrastructure problems in the city’s black neighborhoods had been largely addressed, poverty had increasingly become the most apparent problem in these areas. (p. 274-275)
Birmingham elected its first black mayor, Richard Arrington, in 1979. Black people were no longer discriminated against by the city government – indeed, it was white people who would be discriminated against through Mayor Arrington’s affirmative action programs [Affirmative Action: One City’s Experience; Fighting Bias With Bias and Leaving a Rift, New York Times, 8-21-1995] – which Connerly pointed out on p. 283:
When Bull Connor treated all blacks with contempt, it was easier for blacks from different backgrounds to come together. But a black mayor and, after 1985, a majority black city council meant that city government’s actions that hurt black neighborhoods could no longer be construed as racist and therefore were more difficult for a broad group of black citizens to unite against.
The black citizens of Birmingham, with the absence of white people and their white racism, are incapable of creating new businesses to replace those that left with white flight — well, save title loan and payday shops.
Just like in South Africa, the new black government in Birmingham is incapable of keeping prosperity alive or maintaining any level of economic activity near what the former white government and the white citizens (now living peacefully in the suburbs) could create.
Instead, black residents of Birmingham gathered to ring in the New Year in Kelly Ingram Park, not with champagne and party favors, but with candles[Vigil honors those lost to violence in Birmingham area in 2012, offers prayers for peaceful 2013, Birmingham News, 12-31-12]:
Nearly six minutes passed from the time three community activists read aloud the name of Jefferson County’s first homicide victim of 2012 until they reached the end of the list of all those who died in violence here this year.
One of the organizers of tonight’s vigil, Carolyn Johnson of the Parents Against Violence Foundation, noted that most of Birmingham’s homicide victims are young black males, just like her own son, Rodreckus DeAndrew Johnson, who was shot and killed in 2003.
“It’s an embarrassment. It’s a sick epidemic in our community,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take all of us standing together, banding together to take back our community.”
Yolanda Ross was there in honor of her nephew, Duntrell Goins, 17, who was shot eight times as he walked to the Fairfield Preparatory High School graduation in May. Ross said her son would have been a senior there this upcoming school year.
The Birmingham News doesn’t see fit to print that those individuals participating in the homicides in Birmingham are black males too.
2013 must be the year to strike back — the condition of Birmingham in 2013, much like that found in South Africa, is directly correlated to the displacement of white people and the electing of a new people to the halls of government power.
A revolution was won in Birmingham in 1963. We all live under the ramifications of this victory in 2013.
SBPDL readers — Happy New Year.
This is OUR year.