Distractions and misunderstandings stunt community's growth

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As a former city council member in Augusta during the late 1960s and early '70s, and now the senior former black elected official still alive in this community, I have some comments to make about the current political climate in Richmond County, especially as it applies to the races.

In the '60s and '70s, blacks of my ilk had a difficult time understanding the politics of Booker T. Washington, just as some who read this column may have about my politics at this stage of my life. Many of us then were inclined to follow the politics of Washington's contemporary, W.E.B. Dubois, who was more confrontational with the powers of his day. We went so far to call Washington "Uncle Tom," similar to what is said about any black person today who attempts to work with whites. That confrontational mind-set has become so entrenched among our leaders that we cannot see the wisdom of his politics.

Washington was a man of great intellect who worked tirelessly to educate his people in areas that would immediately secure their future economically. He advocated dropping your buckets where you were - that is, work with what is before you. Use your God-given skills to better your condition and not depend on handouts.

Today, our black leaders hardly ever move us beyond the victim-mentality status. In fact, they prey on it as if their political life depends on our remaining victims. How will we ever overcome when they will not allow us to grow up and become independent?

THE COMMON interest of the good people of Augusta is to have this city grow so that each citizen can be proud. That cannot happen in an atmosphere of racial politics, whether it is played by whites or by blacks. We have to move beyond this if this city is to reach its full potential. However, some blacks have injected race in just about every issue that has come before the city. This may make their constituents feel good and give them a false sense of being represented well. However, the test is: Where's the beef? Do these politicians deliver anything more than rhetoric?

Black leadership owes it to constituents to practice the politics of practicality, and not the politics of race and confrontation. Washington said it best when he said that we, the races, could be as separate as the fingers on a hand when it comes to social matters. However, Washington said that with things of common interest we should be one hand. Lately, we have not seen this. Even in things that should bring us together, we have found ways to separate racially.

The Dave Barbee e-mail distraction can only divide us more and set us back to where we were months ago when the dialogue was so racially charged that one could not cut it with a knife. Now, it seems we have sunk back into that muck of racial politics. Shame on us.

I do not know Mr. Barbee nor his heart. However, I have read his e-mail. And for the life of me, I cannot find anything there that disparages the black community. Perhaps, those who see differently can explain where Mr. Barbee crossed the line.

We have to be careful not to be used in a political way to further the interest of a few. I suspect that there is a dead rat in the middle of this foray, and it stinks to high heaven. And that rat might well be the Boardmans, who I understand wanted to back out of their original plan of mixed housing in the old King Mill site they recently purchased. Forwarding Barbee's e-mail to black elected officials, in my estimation, was overkill, knowing the reaction they would get from the black community. This should have been handled between the Boardmans and Barbee. One has to ask what their agenda was. Were they trying to destroy Barbee's reputation, simply because he was questioning their change of heart on the mixed housing?

AND THE REACTION from the mayor, asking for Barbee's resignation, was premature and spoke of the influence the Boardmans have on the decisions the mayor makes. In this case, it was a bad one, in my opinion. I think this is racial politics in the highest degree. Catering to the black community is one thing, but to do so in a way that denies an otherwise respectable person of the opposite race, who has served this community admirably, an audience to defend himself for a misread e-mail is reprehensible. The mayor should be ashamed of himself for doing so.

Also, the blacks in the Richmond County legislative delegation who participated in this e-mail episode have done a disservice to the black community. They have played the race card to protect their own political interest, without regard to the welfare of their constituents. People in Gilbert Manor are led to believe that this body has their interests at heart, when their primary interest is protecting their territory to ensure their continue re-election. They have no sound reason for keeping these residents in their present location a day longer than they have to.

In 1962, my family and I had to move from the area adjacent to Gilbert Manor to make way for the expansion of the Medical College of Georgia. Not only did blacks have to move, whites did also. It was done in an orderly fashion, as I recall, because we knew the importance of expanding MCG. Now 45 years have past, and Gilbert Manor is still there - and nobody has come up with a compelling reason why the residents of Gilbert Manor should not be moved to expand MCG. Leaders have put fear in the minds of Gilbert Manor residents - the same kind of fear that politicians perpetrated on the residents of Hyde Park using contamination as a means to do so.

We, not necessarily people of the opposite race, have become our own worst enemy to progress in this beautiful city.

(The writer is a retired labor relations manager from Bechtel Savannah River Inc.)

Comments (32) Add comment
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ghughes51
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ghughes51 09/09/07 - 04:40 am
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Well say.

Well say.

getalife
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getalife 09/09/07 - 08:37 am
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It is refreshing to see that

It is refreshing to see that someone has some sense with this issue and could determine what Mr. Barbee was trying to say. Too bad most of the people that read Barbee's email only understood the words "black and white"!!

highpriestess
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highpriestess 09/09/07 - 08:40 am
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Bravo!! The most intelligent

Bravo!! The most intelligent commentary on this fiasco yet. The black officials of this city (elected or not) should break bread with this man frequently and learn from his wisdom.

1957
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1957 09/09/07 - 09:14 am
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Finally a voice of reason.

Finally a voice of reason.

karmakills123
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karmakills123 09/09/07 - 10:17 am
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At last a voice of reason

At last a voice of reason !!!!!!!!.............But where are the names of these two LTE"s.......I thought the names had to be published.

Unexpected
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Unexpected 09/09/07 - 10:18 am
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This man is right on trsack

This man is right on trsack and needs to get back in the game, so we can move forward with common sense in not race baiting!

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 09/09/07 - 10:38 am
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Grady Abrams, the writer of

Grady Abrams, the writer of this article, has been one of my unsung heroes for years. I am so proud of him for being a voice of reason, of insight, of depth of independent thinking. He has been through a tragedy and difficulties in his life that would have destroyed a lesser man. He rose above these to become successful in more than one field and is a talented, principled, human being who seeks justice and truth. He speaks from the positions of compassion, tolerance and experience. I challenge all leaders of every race and culture in this community to read this letter and learn from it. I want to thank you, Grady Abrams, for this expression of your strength of character and courage.

Edward B. Turner
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Edward B. Turner 09/09/07 - 10:40 am
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What a refreshing take on the

What a refreshing take on the whole situation. Well-written, and filled with positivity!

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 09/09/07 - 10:45 am
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The best article I've read in

The best article I've read in the AC. Every high point was identified and a viable solution was detailed to deal with the controversial points. Please speak out more often Mr.Abrams.

RebelTA
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RebelTA 09/09/07 - 10:50 am
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Would he please run for

Would he please run for commissioner and replace the bozo's who constantly whine about race and who use race to further their own financial agendas? Please? A gentleman such as this would surely improve relations and add a much prettier smell to the cesspool we have now.

deekster
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deekster 09/09/07 - 11:03 am
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Well said, Mr. Abrams. You

Well said, Mr. Abrams. You are a "voice crying in the
wilderness". Repent and be saved. You obviously have no motives of self gain and political power. This allows you to be honest. Amen.

brisco39
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brisco39 09/09/07 - 12:09 pm
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I've just been reading some

I've just been reading some of Dr. Cashin's work on the history and former graetness of Augusta. I was lamenting how we have let ourselves get pushed into the backwaters primarily by our petty bickering. And then I read Mr. Abrams' article. We have a long way to go to become what we once were, a cultural and economic beacon in the souheast, but the longest journey begins with a single step. I believe Mr. Abrams can help us all find our way on that journey. Augustans, black and white, would do well to heed his words.

BigRed
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BigRed 09/09/07 - 12:46 pm
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Thank you, Mr. Adams. It is

Thank you, Mr. Adams. It is so nice to hear someone levelheaded speak on this matter. All the petty behavior needs to be set aside and the effort put into the continued improvement of the entire Augusta community.

jack
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jack 09/09/07 - 02:49 pm
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Thank you Mr Abrams for your

Thank you Mr Abrams for your voice of reason. The local leaders would do well to heed your wrds. Unfortunately, you will likely be called an "uncle tom". I am sure you are a person who will let that roll off you like water on a duck's back because you are right.

TAYLOR57
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TAYLOR57 09/09/07 - 02:52 pm
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Mr.Abrams obviously sees the

Mr.Abrams obviously sees the bigger picture. His wisdom and and insight needs to be learned by others. Most blacks want the same things as whites: to raise their families in a safe community, good jobs, and quality education for their children! Only a few keep things stirred up for their own agenda; power and greed. MCG needs space for future expansion which will provide more jobs for our community. Surely, there is a solution that can relocate GM and allow MCG to grow thus helping our local economy for all people! Please Mr. Abrams, continue to speak out!

dont live there anymore
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dont live there anymore 09/09/07 - 03:36 pm
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Great letter. Wonderful

Great letter. Wonderful comments today. But, just wait, there will be someone who will take exception to his comments. Mr. Abrams comments should be heeded at the next election time.
Augusta/Richmond County is a great community and though I don't live there I hope that there are some people like Mr. Abrams (both black & white) that will do what it best for the area.

RichmondCountyResident1
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RichmondCountyResident1 09/09/07 - 05:00 pm
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This is an old Chronicle

This is an old Chronicle stunt. Find a black stooge to say what the whites want to hear, then everyone can say how right he is.Mr. Abrams comments only seem to castigate one race, in a silly battle among the races. His pandering may soothe some, but it is hardly the thoughts and feelings of the masses and a lot of us don't live in government housing either.We Augustans need to find common ground on issues important to this community, without regards of race. I don't have all the answers, but pandering like this want solve a thing.

karmakills123
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karmakills123 09/09/07 - 06:31 pm
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And there you

And there you go.................................

BakersfieldCityLimits
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BakersfieldCityLimits 09/09/07 - 06:47 pm
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Oh great, finally for the

Oh great, finally for the majority community an African American that agrees with them. Its funny how an African American becomes their hero when it suits them. I wonder how many in the majority were singing the praise of Mr. Abrams during the early days of our struggle to overcome the system that to this day holds we African Americans back.

bone
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bone 09/09/07 - 07:17 pm
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the system is as equal as its

the system is as equal as its gonna get, d1216. why don't you quit whining and start proving that you are worthy of all the struggle your ancestors went thru to give you the opportunities you now have? RCR, you aren't looking for any common ground unless it is the ground you don't have yet; what about the ground currently held by blacks (affirmative action, education assistance funds, minority set asides)? why aren't these grounds enough to raise the black race out of the mire that whites are supposedly condemning you to? abrams is right: give up the racial politics, pick up a tool, and start building something new instead of scratching around in the dirt for another injustice.

RichmondCountyResident1
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RichmondCountyResident1 09/09/07 - 09:01 pm
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Bone, sounds like someone has

Bone, sounds like someone has the victim mentality you accuse others of having.I don't feel sorry for you.I think all these programs are helpful, but the problem is they don't get enforced by racist who caused their existence. Many blacks and myself have at least as much as the average white without the benefit of these programs. It is sad people talk about those less fortunate than themselves for any reason. Maybe you guys would benefit from humility, because most of you aren't but a generation or two past being where they are. Abrams is right only because stated your position. Everybody know who the real racist are.

SargentMidTown
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SargentMidTown 09/09/07 - 09:59 pm
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The biggest problem for

The biggest problem for Augusta is bad third generation welfare tenants who are on the section 8 program. The check to pay their rent is sent directly to the landlord. The check should go to the section 8 tenant. If the tenant is not responsible enough to pay their rent then they should not get section 8.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 09/09/07 - 10:25 pm
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Shouldn't we all be focusing

Shouldn't we all be focusing on Mr. Abrams's letter and ignore RCR and D1216? If the haters could be ignored instead of answered, which obviously is a waste of time to try to do anyway, we could move forward with anyone of a mind to move forward. That's the whole point, unless I'm mistaken. Forget the people who don't want to let go of their buckets. It's their choice. But we don't have to let them hold the future hostage with their fits of pique.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 09/09/07 - 10:38 pm
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The part of this Barbee

The part of this Barbee fiasco that I find the most dispicable is that it appears to me that the black community has been manipulated into being outraged so that the Sibley Mill investment would be protected. That's the part that really gets to me, and boy were they successful. And those guys sure have been quite about why they passed around Barbee's email.

bigalsc
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bigalsc 09/10/07 - 12:25 am
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Mr Abrams, why don't you

Mr Abrams, why don't you apply to the AC, the Spirit, and the Focus for a job writing a periodic column and tell it like it is ALL the way round!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 09/10/07 - 08:49 am
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Thank you for your insight,

Thank you for your insight, Mr. Abrams. Your column is excellently written, with every paragraph analyzing a single topic with logic and clarity.

RichmondCountyResident1
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RichmondCountyResident1 09/10/07 - 02:19 pm
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Typical responses from those

Typical responses from those who don't have nothing of substance to add. We will ignore those who don't see it our way because we our always right.We don't have a valid response so let's nit pick grammar.Baloney!!!!!!!

RichmondCountyResident1
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RichmondCountyResident1 09/10/07 - 02:21 pm
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Yeah uninformed citizen, it

Yeah uninformed citizen, it should have been are instead of our.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 09/10/07 - 05:05 pm
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Actually, INFORMED CITIZEN

Actually, INFORMED CITIZEN usually is a voice of balance and reason, calling for unity and tolerance. I'd like to know what you really want RICHMONDCOUNTYRESIDENT, that you aren't getting or can't have. I really would. What are we, whom you are so happy to accuse of racism and bigotry, actually denying you or doing to you by congratulating Grady Abrams for being a force for understanding and unity in our community? Do you think your way is the only way? What is it that you really want us to do that we aren't doing?

bone
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bone 09/10/07 - 06:47 pm
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if i had a victim mentality i

if i had a victim mentality i would be crying to stay in subsidized housing because i couldn't successfully find a home on my own merits without help. instead, i work for a living, own a home, pay taxes, and generally go about my business trying the best i can to fend for myself. i might lack compassion, but i make up for it by not being a burden on society.

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