An Atmore divided cannot grow

Published 6:24 am Thursday, June 19, 2003

By By Lindsey Sherrill
Staff Writer
There is something I feel I need to write about. I have seen far too much of this, and I can't remain silent even though I know my words will probably not change a thing. I may step on even more toes with this than I did last week, but I'm going to say it anyway. And, if I haven't offended you yet, don't worry. The way I'm going, I probably will soon.
I have always heard that a newspaper office is the heart of a town. I didn't really know that was true until I began working here full time. That statement could not be more true. Because of that, something very sad has become very evident to me. I talk to so many people, see so much that I don't really want to see, and hear so much that we all like to pretend isn't there, that I can get a clear picture of our city.
I see the heart of this community, and it is ugly. Yes, you can pretty it up, sugarcoat it, but under the surface, there is so much that is putrid and ugly. It literally makes me sick.
You all know I love this town. I have said that many times. I was born here, I grew up here, and I graduated here. I'm Miss Atmore, for crying out loud!
But that doesn't change the fact that there is so much ugliness just barely hiding under our pretty streets, clean yards and welcome signs. We are hiding racism and bitterness that make our town like a festering sore under a lace bandage. The covering might be pretty, but the rot is still there, right beneath the surface.
It may seem ironic for me to be writing this. I am a middle class, white girl. What can I know about racism? Plenty. I know that I heard anger from one voice that a picture from a "white story" had run on a page with a "black story." I know that I heard from another voice that Miss Atmore was a scam because no minorities were in the competition. None signed up, though they were more than welcome to. I know that every time I hear the division over the smallest things my heart breaks and I think, 'No wonder we can't move forward!'
How can a city, a people, a community, be strong, united and prosperous if we harbor hatred? I know that there are many, many people in Atmore who are not racist or bitter or biased. I know that there are many, of many races and backgrounds, that try very hard to bind these wounds and heal the sores. Yet the steps it takes to make Atmore prosperous must be made by all of us. Black, white, red, yellow. African-American, Asian, Hispanic, caucasian, native American. The blame for our problems and our divisions belongs to all of those groups and to each of us individually. It is cliche, but it is true, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are all responsible and all accountable. The beauty of our city depends so much on working together as a community. There are no differences of any significance among us. We are all Americans, and, more importantly, we are all Atmorians.

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