Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Notes from Race and Politics Forum

Race Relations in Politics panel, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis
Some notes from memory of the excellent forum last Saturday at the National Civil Rights Museum. This is by no means a summary of what was said, only what stuck with me.

Marcus Pohlmann: 3 watersheds in Memphis' racial progress in politics: the Freedmen's Bureaus, the Yellow Fever, and rulings by the Federal Courts in the 1970s. Memphis has made progress since 1991 but has recently plateaued.

Randolph Meade Walker: The Crump machine is still in place, including an oligarchy. Education, discouraged by Memphis and Southern leaders until very recently, is key to change. Also we must deal with institutional racism -- lack of banks, restaurants, etc., in African-American majority communities.

Sidney Chism: we must learn to appreciate cultural differences. We had several good candidates for Mayor during the last election, but the media made it into a racial thing.

David Cocke: politicians will use race if it benefits them. We must encourage more cross-over politicians to help neutralize this.

Desi Franklin: we have an oligarcy. We must reach out as individuals to people of different cultures. A book that's influenced her. Also quoted dire statistics (and hopeful goals) about African-American economic wealth and power from the MemphisED report.

Again, from memory.

Thanks and congratulations to the Memphis Urban League and New Path and moderator Darryl Tukufu for an interesting, honest and possibly historic conversation. They are planning on having more forums on "Race and ..." and are also planning citywide study circles to continue the conversation.

Lorraine Motel, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

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