Atlanta is best city in the country to address race issue

By Guest Columnist ARNIE SIDMAN, a former senior vice president of RJR Nabisco and a veteran corporate tax attorney

Over the years, I have become concerned about what I perceive to be an inexorable drift in American society—a malaise which threatens our heritage; our precious legacy.

My 20-year career in corporate America afforded me a special opportunity to observe not only my beloved country but also many other parts of the putative civilized world.

Indubitably – whether by the grace of God, or historical accident, we Americans have been granted an unparalleled opportunity to show the world how to play the game of life – and we’re blowing it.

Arnie Sidman

Arnie Sidman

For myself, I have always believed that life was a team game where individual achievement was necessary but not sufficient.

Our country was founded by people who valued freedom over security. Over time, it seems to me, we have become a nation that values security over freedom. And in recent years, we have expanded the concept of security to include just about anything we don’t want to be bothered about.

We have lost our sense of responsibility and accountability, and we have become increasingly self-absorbed.

My own most significant contribution to our slide has to do with race. I remember exactly when I became aware of the fact that I was uncomfortable around blacks en masse in personal settings.

I remember exactly the day I walked down Constitution Avenue to catch my bus to avoid the crowd listening to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “dream” speech – not my problem.

I remember exactly the circumstances under which I discovered that I would never ever consider moving into a black neighborhood. From what I can see, I am not the only American suffering from this malady.

The circumstances under which I entered corporate America in 1968 forced me to confront my malady head on.

race to renewal book

Arnie Sidman’s book: “From Race to Renewal: It’s Not All Black and White”

Fortunately, although I was embarrassed to have to admit to myself that I had this problem, I would have been even more ashamed not to try to remedy it. So, over time, I just started “showing up” in the black community.

And, over time, my condition improved. Oh, don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t cured; more like an AA alumnus. But much of my discomfort disappeared.

By the time I moved to Atlanta in 1987, I had become convinced that our inability to assimilate our black teammates was significantly limiting America’s essential growth prospects; and Atlanta was the American city best positioned to address this issue.

Sad to say, to date, my efforts to enlist both white and black community leaders in this effort have been unavailing; the race taboo remains a powerful force insidiously deployed by politicians and the media alike.

That’s why I wrote the book: “From Race to Renewal: It’s Not All Black and White.”

As a Southerner by choice (and one who resents being a scapegoat for a national embarrassment) I feel even more strongly today that Atlanta can double in size, repair its public infrastructure, break the race taboo, and confound the Yankee hypocrites.

Whether Atlanta’s leaders in the clubhouse will choose to do so remains to be seen.

For more information about Arnie Sidman’s book: “From Race to Renewal: It’s Not All Black and White.” – click here.

4 replies
  1. John Hutcheson says:

    Thanks for your article – we need much more discussion of race and your story is important. I haven’t had a chance to read your book as yet, but intend to do so. Just on the basis of the article, however, I have one criticism — and that is in your reference to assimilation. I think expectations of assimilation are among the reasons we have made so little progress. When confronted with differences we don’t fully understand and appreciate, we often feel — why are they not like me? And that sets of a perspective that undervalues those differences and assumes that those who are different need to become more ‘like me.’ This is he wrong place to start a relationship and why policies like affirmative action are necessary, but not sufficient if our goal is full participation in the workplace. The late Dr. Roosevelt Thomas had, what seems to me (a fellow white southerner) a much better and useful perspective. When we encounter differences we should view them as opportunities to learn. Organizations, and societies, don’t progress without learning and adapting. Simply put if we don’t respect differences enough to learn from them, no one learns — not we as individuals, not we as organizations, and most importantly, not we as society. I know — perhaps and over-reaction to one word, but hopefully my comments extend the discussion.Report

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  2. Gary Pelphrey says:

    Thanks for your article. I like the idea that a corporate lawyer is stepping forward to address a problem which has for so long been recognized, but never fully understood.

    As a lawyer myself, I’m inclined to see Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” as an inciteful beginning for each of us. Coates is writing to his son, telling him how to stay alive in today’s America, not to buy into “the dream”.

    Not the way I’d have viewed it, but his logic is overwhelming. One tectonic philosophical shift early on: “…race is the child of racism, not the father.” I think understanding this is essential to developing any meaningful resolution.Report

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  3. John R Naugle says:

    Greetings from Atlanta: City of Peace. I fully agree with the title: “Atlanta is the best city”… Inspiring article Mr. Sidman and I look forward to learning more about your book: “From Race to Renewal: It’s Not All Black and White.” Personally, I like to share the power of this video which amplifies our universal commonalities; regardless of color, nationality, religion or ethnicity, etc. It’s exciting that many siblings of our extended global family are coming to realize and celebrate the wonderful fact that we are all connected and, in a deeper/wider sense: “Stardust.” Dr. King’s birthplace is the best positioned city on Earth to propel the sorts of elevating perspectives found within “From Race to Renewal” and also this video…”We Are Star Dust” – Symphony of Science

    Report

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  4. AC Pence says:

    Thank you for your article. I will order your book immediately. The arts create an access point for different communities to share our experiences, our history, our fears, but most importantly our future. Aurora Theatre is co-producing the musical MEMPHIS with Theatrical Outfit. MEMPHIS is about the birth of rhythm and blues in the south. It has given both our organizations the opportunity to talk about race in an honest and safe space. Gwinnett County is the most diverse county in the southeast and yet, for the most part, we still have a long way to go to resemble a world class community. I invite you to our Community Conversation tomorrow night 8/5 at 7:15, before the show. And then stay for MEMPHIS. We run through August 30th at Aurora Theatre. Then we move to the Rialto from September 10-20 for Theatrical Outfit’s spectacular opening to their season. You see, theaters have been begging for us to talk about compassion for years, but being 50th in the nation in arts funding, we have a limited voice. With dedicated funding from our state and our corporate community, we can elevate our voices into a roar. We long to be part of an Atlanta who is at the forefront of progress, of small business, of education. We do not want to be known as the city who is hanging on to the notion that flying a confederate flag is anything but hurtful to our people, to our region, to our state and to our nation.Report

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