Aaron always offers special insight into the issues of Memphis, and it’s particularly instructive since he’s one of those highly coveted young professionals who has moved to our city. We thought his comments to our post yesterday deserved to be highlighted here:

It takes time to reverse the momentum that has dragged Memphis in the wrong direction for years. That negative momentum has been fueled and driven by oppression of one culture by another. Although it’s not nearly as measurable or tangible as in years past, its aftershocks will be felt for years.

There are two cultures here that don’t mix very well.

One culture needs to seek forgiveness and provide tangible evidence of providing a way out for the culture it oppressed. This same culture says to the other, “Move beyond your past and seize the opportunities.” Sure, just tell the lion at the zoo to not let that barrier keep him from realizing his true capacity to roam. There are a lot of socio-economic barriers that have been raised as a result of the residual cultural infrastructure that exists here. You don’t see it if you visit Memphis, but you do if you move here.

It’s this rift between two cultures that is absolutely revolting to the outsiders coming to Memphis. And nowhere is it more obvious then when an outsider family goes to a public school and is suddenly transported back to the segregated pre-Civil Rights era.

You can talk about all the great ways that people claim race relations have improved, but the public school system is the reality check. It tells the whole story to a family coming to move to Memphis. There is the change that people desire and preach and then there is their action to back it up. Let’s face it- it’s completely socially acceptable within the churched culture here to segregate your kids. How’s that for a selling point for our city?


Memphis is plagued by hypocrisy – a putrid stench to the prospective working professional and to the Memphian that has smelled it their whole life and is aching to get out of it. This hypocrisy is the running joke with one of my Australian colleagues.

A culture that preaches forgiveness and tolerance and yet continues to promote segregation by placing its children into private schools. How do our children learn racial tolerance and harmony if they don’t grow up together? Most of the parents that I have met who do place their kids in Memphis City Schools are non-religious folks. What does that say about what people believe? Does God only live in private schools? Why is it that the “non-Christians” are more Christian in their convictions (or at least actions) than the “true Christians.”

Yes we need more high tech jobs, low tech jobs and such. But for people to sink their roots down and commit to a community we need racial harmony and congruity. The church here needs to live out the principles and actions and align their beliefs with their actions.

On the brighter side, times are changing.

As more outsiders move in, the melting pot is starting to stir again especially in the Midtown areas but it’s slow and even slower within the native culture. But it’s happening and I have met Memphians that are equally disturbed with this incongruity. But wait! MCS are terrible and not safe. Right? Not true. That’s a smokescreen or code word for the MCS being mostly populated by blacks. There are some great MCS schools out there!!

As you see racial reconciliation continue to unfold, this city will become a beautiful vibrant place – inside and out. It already is a beautiful little city but it’s the culture, the tension and the manifestations of this rift that start to wear on those of us who are new to Memphis.

Let’s start with a Forgiveness Garden perhaps on the grounds of Auction and Main.
This is the area visible from the trolley route where slaves were traded and the property has been for sale for along time. H-m-m. Why not get churches to donate money to jointly buy, run and maintain the site? Why not host inter-racial worship services on Mud Island on Sunday nights?

People will stay and not leave as the day-to-day gritty realities around us begin to fade. And they will fade as harmony is restored between the cultures belief system and it’s actions.