Is racism the problem in Augusta's government? No -- it's everything but

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“The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.”

– James Brown

Recently I participated in the taping of a television report for TV station WJBF in which reporter Renetta DuBose led a discussion on whether racism exists in local government. I held forth with Metro Courier Publisher Barbara Gordon, Augusta Technical College President Terry Elam and community activist Lori Davis.

We all come from different backgrounds and have different life experiences. We don’t all share the same age, race or sex. For that matter, we don’t all share the same opinions, which of course makes for good television.

The timing of our discussion couldn’t have been better, given the high-profile premiere of the James Brown biopic in Augusta later this month. I daresay no other Augustan, black or white, male or female, old or young, rose to the level of international fame and acclaim reached by Mr. Brown.

At the same time he was both beloved and vilified in the city he called home. His honors in Augusta came late in his life, long after the rest of the world had acknowledged his genius.

Whether local people embraced or rejected James Brown had more to do with his behavior than his race. Mr. Brown was born black and grew up black; nothing would change that. Whatever lessons he learned from time in jail both early and late in his life were clouded by drugs and women.

MR. BROWN WORKED hard for his success, and along the way taught young people that they owed it to themselves to get what he never had – a formal education.

But the man dubbed the Godfather of Soul never let color be his litmus test. His song Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud is not an anthem of black liberation, but one of black pride and accomplishment. Lord knows, growing up in a poor, segregated neighborhood could have instilled a lifetime of bitterness. For many it did, but not for James Brown.

Unfortunately, some in this community use that bitterness to sow the seeds of discrimination like picking at a scab on an old wound. Our TV discussion might have carried the title of racism, but to me it was more about economics. The haves vs. the have-nots. The west side vs. the south side. Us against them. Even conspiracy theories.

It would be naïve to think we live in a colorblind society. We even go out of our way to encourage diversity and sustain cultural institutions. Our tax money follows public policy that says the black community should have what the white community has. But that is a rocky road to follow.

With a poverty rate well above 20 percent and the city center losing about 1,000 residents a year, Augusta reflects many of the same issues other urban areas across this country are facing. These cities are finding that poverty consumes a lot of public resources that government might rather spend on something else.

SINCE MUCH OF THE poverty is represented among our minority citizens, it’s convenient to play the race card. But if you want to see examples of people being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin, you don’t have to go back that far in history. I remember what it was like going to segregated schools and living apart from black people. None of that was by choice – segregation was the law of the land.

I suspect that some of the last reminders of public segregation will be demolished with the $40 million remodeling of the Municipal Building. It was built with separate water coolers, jury rooms and restrooms for “white” and “colored.” Many people here will remember that time, not so long ago.

Government discourse has gotten way too contentious – and personal. There was a time when we debated, negotiated and compromised to solve problems. Now the path to public policy is through a blender that grinds ideas into meaningless sound bites and personal attacks. Even our local government lurches from problem to problem, crisis to crisis, with endless debate along the way.

No, the problem in local government is not racism. It’s about everything but that. One of the TV show panelists suggested a lack of trust; even the Chamber of Commerce’s much-heralded Community Trust Initiative imploded six months after its launch.

So, maybe it’s not a coincidence that the James Brown movie is premiering the same month this discussion is taking place. Mr. Brown’s life lesson is that we will succeed with hard work, and we can all get along if we want to.

(The writer was Augusta’s mayor from 1999 to 2005, and a former assistant deputy secretary for the U.S. Depart­ment of Hou­sing and Urban De­vel­op­ment.)

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justus4 07/20/14 - 04:53 am
The article demonstrates the

The article demonstrates the problems with, not only local government, but the the nation as a whole: race. Each idea offered by the author can easily be exposed as a attempt to erase or "reinvent" the past. Yes, JB worked "hard" and demonstrated the lengths one could achieve if one worked hard. However, that observation ignores that he grew up in the extreme Jim Crow south. Imagine the improvement on his contributions had he been raised in a country that treated everyone equal. Yes, "segregation was the law" but that ignores the Declaration of Independence which states that All Men are Created Equal. By violating that document and it Principles, the South victimized people of color including JB, which needs to be factored into any discussion of his behavior or shortcomings. Race is baked into every facet of American life and not recognizing or attempting to rewrite or shading the facts are just more evidence that problems persist.

seenitB4 07/20/14 - 06:46 am
My, so honest this am..

With a poverty rate well above 20 percent and the city center losing about 1,000 residents a year,

Refreshing to see someone tell the truth...

myfather15 07/20/14 - 07:40 am
"Mr. Brown’s life lesson is

"Mr. Brown’s life lesson is that we will succeed with hard work, and we can all get along if we want to."

This is a COMMON SENSE lesson, and shouldn't be hard to understand. The people in these communities, overwhelming get along just fine!! It's VERY rare to see incidents of violence, committed between people of different races!! Most of the time, violence is committed against a person of a certain race, by another person of the same race!!

In 18 years of law enforcement, off the top of my head I can remember maybe FIVE cases I was involved in, where race was even a possible factor!! People of ALL races, get along just fine!!

BUT, there are people in this world whose profession and profit making ability, are dependent upon keeping a racial division in this world!! Those are overwhelmingly the politicians and activists, such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan!! Politicians depend on racial division for VOTES, and they've restructured entire districts, to ensure they get the votes they need to win!! With racial division and restructuring disticts; they've been very successful!!

Then you have the activists, like Jackson and Sharpton; who DEPEND upon racial division, to remain relevent in the world!! If they honestly told the truth, that the people actually get along very well, and incidents of racism are VERY rare in today's society; they KNOW they would no longer be needed!! Do you believe they want to give up their power and influence? People who profit off the demise and division of other people, are truly evil!!

Race is not the problem in Augusta, or in the United States of America!! Out of control Ego's, greed, deception, power addiction, and extreme ideology, ARE the main problems in the world.

Unfortunately, I personally hold no faith in mankind that they are capable of ever making a serious dent in these problems. My faith in changing this, remains solely with He who created us and gave us what allows us to make our will!!

corgimom 07/20/14 - 07:41 am
And instead of addressing

And instead of addressing that, the Commissioners would rather spend their time and energy dealing with stray dogs.

hoptoad 07/20/14 - 08:00 am

When I was growing up in the 40's and 50's I was aware of many black persons getting an education one way or another, opening their own small businesses, living in two-parent homes and raising their children like any other race in the many different cities in which I lived.

They were beginning to make slow but steady strides in our country. What changed all this was not the need to validate the equality of all races through the civil rights act. It was when the dems began all the give away programs, and with the help of unscrupulous black leaders, began the campaign to make black people feel anger, entitlement, and a sense of inferiority.

James Brown's fame and fortune should be the part of his life that gives inspiration to young people of all races. Unfortunately, he had that drug and lawlessness on the other side of the coin and too many of our youths glorify that side.

jimmymac 07/20/14 - 09:00 am

You can talk all you want about racial issues but it still boils down to self respect. People who don't respect themselves won't respect anyone else. Girls who don't respect themselves allow others to disrespect and use them. Growing up teachers, police and parents were respected and shame on you if you disrespected them.

Lori Davis
Lori Davis 07/20/14 - 11:02 am
Ineresting Panel Discussion

One thing that was interesting about the 4 of us who participated in this discussion was that all of us generally agreed on what the problems are in Augusta. That was refreshing. I contend that there are really not the major racial issues that the media keeps in the spotlight. The problem is not black and white; it is green! Greed is destroying this city and the media keeps it about race to divide and conquer. This city has a white cabal and a black cabal, if you will, and they work together to satisfy their greedy needs. In other words, they quite frequently split the spoils of war among themselves while everyone else continues to suffer. THIS is why we have not seen progress in Augusta. Augusta will NEVER move ahead until this dynamic is ended.

Riverman1 07/20/14 - 11:20 am
Dysfunctional Local Government Encouraged

Lori Davis comes closest to the truth. As a well known mutual friend of ours explained to me in detail, the powers that be want to keep a dysfunctional government in order to keep the tax money flowing their way. It's certainly worked for them so far.

historylover 07/20/14 - 11:55 am
Bob Young

Very well presented. Thank you.

Conservative Man
Conservative Man 07/20/14 - 01:56 pm
The problems in Augusta are NOT….

…black vs. white.

As has been stated here, they are GREEN…

When you have a power structure (both black AND white) dedicated to getting what they can for their "patrons" from the public treasury to the detriment of average folk, RC will continue to lose…

Unless Hardie Davis can perform miracles , I predict more of the same..

Lets hope I'm proven wrong….time will tell….

corgimom 07/20/14 - 05:29 pm
Hoptoad, you forgot

Hoptoad, you forgot reparations, and that "black symbol of oppression", the Confederate flag.

blues550 07/20/14 - 07:50 pm
Really Bob????

Aside for his continuing need to get his name in front of the public this appeared to be no more than a waste of column inches.

nocnoc 07/20/14 - 09:30 pm
From Shining Shoes on Post as a kid to

A Mega Star that that stopped the Stupidly started Riot of May 11th , 1970.

Only Living in a America.

Racism is now down to the individuals is is no longer a State Law.

We just need to deal with the few racists that still exist on the individual basis. It is no longer a National, state, county or city practice.

We also need to expose a few Race Baiters and people that make a living off the unfortunates opportunities that from time to time will happen no matter what or how purely accidental the situation.

Just because a White man dies at the hands of a Black man is not Racist,
an the opposite is also true also.

corgimom 07/20/14 - 09:44 pm
"the few racists that still

"the few racists that still exist on the individual basis"??? Are you kidding me???

Racism is alive and well, and it's not limited to whites. Your idea that it no longer exists is ludicrous.

"It is no longer a National, state, county or city practice"-- if you think that the Augusta county commissioners are race-blind, and never vote on the basis of race, think again.

And if you think that justice is the same for people in East Augusta versus the Hill, then I truly don't know what to tell you. If you think that only blacks are involved in the drug trade in Richmond County, then I have a bridge to sell you.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a man on Death Row in Georgia who was granted clemency. He was white. Not a word was said. Do you think the same thing would happen in Georgia if a black man was granted clemency from the death penalty?

Do you think that school systems track Hispanic students for no reason?

And with the increasing emphasis on test scores in schools, and the well-known lower scores of minority students, just watch what will happen in the years to come in the state of Georgia.

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