I live in Montgomery, Alabama. I have lived and ministered here for almost 10 years. This past week, a horrible division occurred on Montgomery's school board along racial lines. Today, an article comes out confirming what everyone knows: White flight has completely taken hold in Montgomery County. In just 8 years, whites have gone from 50% of the population of the county to 45% and the number is declining fast. What will it be in 10 more years? Blacks have gone from 49% to 54% approximately. Of course, whether the city is primarily white or black does not really matter – it is the stigma that is attached to racial differences here that is so devastating. Racial division increases here as whites move to northern
counties to get away from the problems that exist in the city, both real and perceived. Suburban blight has claimed many neighborhoods that were once good places to live and retail areas that were once thriving now sit vacant. The public schools face serious performance and funding issues. Around 90% of the 32,000 students are black and 60% of those students live below the poverty line. White citizens don't want to fund a school system that they don't send their children to, so property taxes are some of the lowest in the state. There are basically two school systems existing of primarily white private academies and primarily black public schools. Crime abounds among a growing underclass population. The morale of the citizens of the city is very low and no one thinks that anything can be done about it. Old Montgomery business interests keep building new developments to make more and more money without thought of how it affects neighborhoods and how it destroys communities as the developments and growth prove to be unstainable. It is a planning disaster, but money makes the machine run.
As for the churches, there are well over 300 churches in a city of around 220,000. 57 of them are Southern Baptist. If you drive around the city, it seems that there is a church building on every street corner. Most of the churches are half empty and consist primarily of senior adults. Almost all of the churches are composed of just one race as 11:00 on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in our community. Very few churches are involved in their communities in any meaningful way. Nearly everyone claims to be a Christian here, but according to the most accurate estimates available, only 28% attend church and of those that do, how many are really involved in sacrficing to change their communities for the better?
Still, Montgomery primarily struggles from a lack of imagination brought on by generations of oppression, division, and racism. My family lives in an old neighborhood just a few minutes from downtown. We have a great house in a great neighborhood. Montgomery is a great place to live and raise our children. We are fortunate that our kids go to the public magnet schools and are receiving a great education. We are happy and we have decided that this is where God has placed us and the walls of division that have destroyed the potential of this city, the state Capitol of Alabama, the first capitol of the Confederacy, and the Birthplace of Civil Rights – well, those walls must come down. It really is what you make of it and it is amazing how much of a better perspective you have on people and events when you see things through the eyes of faith.
But, not everyone sees things that way. Here are just a few of the many comments from local citizens about Montgomery posted in the comment section of the aforementioned article on our local newspaper's website. Read these comments and tell me how you would be a missionary in a city like this:
MichaelLange wrote:Montgomery is the most racially divided city I have ever lived in. The school system is 100% segregated with a majority of the white students attending private schools while the public schools are disproportionately black. Sometimes I feel like the problem is already too far gone to be fixed, I honestly hope I'm wrong. But as long as our elected officials live with their head in the sand I guess we will never see real progress and change. It's time to call it what it is and look for real solutions and we can start by electing school board members and other elected officials that want to represent all segments of the population and do what is best for the city and the county.
7/4/2009 6:45:02 AMProculator wrote:You wil note that blacks are fleeing Montgomery too. Does anyone think middle class blacks approve of the thugs running the streets as they are more likely to become a victim than a white person. Tallahassee Florida has some of the same problems as Montgomery but there has been no white flight out of the city.
Maybe we should send some of city commissioners and staff and talk with them. Look around Montgomery as some areas in the West, the old Madison Ave sections and south Montgomery have become what whites describe as the Black Plague destroying good mixed neighborhoods street by street house by house. Slumloads are ignored by the city code enforcement because after all "Black folks like to live in the slums." When tourists visit Old Montgomery they have to be let in the main complex by a guard after pushing a button due to the thugs. Welcome to Montgomery folks this is how it is. It's not. There are a lot of mixed neighborhoods that work.williethemole wrote:I often doubt statistics when Montgomery claims crime rates are down, but even if they are down, they're still incredibly high, much too high for any honest family looking to relocate here.
As for the school system, it's a disaster that will more than likely never improve.As long as students are allowed to disrupt classrooms with little if any retribution, those families, both black and white, that truly want a good education for their kids will look elsewhere.Who can blame them?
Montgomery has many problems to deal with and a large percentage of it's population that seemingly just doesn't care.Our main thoroughfares are often covered with litter, once decent neighborhoods are even worse.The city is ugly and poorly planned for the most part.You can't have a movie theatre, mall or other similar places to visit without our infamous thug element eventually ruining it for everyone else.
I feel for Todd Strange because I truly believe he wants the best for the city..Good Luck mayor.
7/4/2009 6:52:33 AM
stay_fokuzed wrote:Middle-class blacks and whites are fed up with the rampant thugery and racial hating that always seems to raise its ugly head and prevent any natural progression. When city officials make attempts to reduce this rampant thugery it gets labeled as racial profiling. The demise of the Montgomery Mall is a perfect example of this. Making excuses for crimes a person commits just because they are same race as you is another major problem. Step up, be a leader, and instead of focusing on race, focus on right and wrong regardless of race.
7/4/2009 7:18:11 AMwilliethemole wrote:
As much as I hate to be a part of trend, as soon as my husband and I can sell our house we are out of Montgomery too. I have lived in montgomery for 37 of my 39 years and it pains me but I just don't want to live in this city anymore.I have a pending contract on my house now, and hope (fingers AND toes crossed) that the potential buyer closes by the end of the month.No real matter however, since I have a modest place waiting for me 40 miles south of the city and will move anyway regardless.Sadly, I've pretty much had to give the place away for obvious reasons, but there is no price tag on happiness, and I'm absolutely miserable in this town.
I will urge anyone that can afford it to flee this place ASAP. It's only going to get more depressing as the generations that follow yours will be far worse than what's residing here now.
This was a quiet and relatively peaceful town 30 years ago, but those days are gone forever.The "blight" has destroyed Montgomery.