The politics of racism

I’ve been following with more than a little interest the controversy surrounding the building of Chatham Area Transit’s proposed transfer center.

I am not without my own biases; you see I have been a CAT Bus Operator for 19 years. I also happen to be an ardent supporter of the preservation and integrity of our downtown area.

First let me address the need. As it stands we are on the street quite literally, as are all our customers. As far as location, we currently congregate on the corner of Montgomery Street and Oglethorpe Avenue.

This is our main transfer site already; the original site for the proposed center is merely cater-corner to where we now meet, and would not further impact the traffic problem that already exists.

It is my opinion that this site is the one that is best suited for CAT, our customers, and the City of Savannah. The money has been approved, the design has met historic district regulations, and all systems should be a go. The location has been vacant for many years, and will add needed parking for the Civic Center as well as downtown employees.

Nobody wants to see Elbert Square restored more than myself. If you don’t know where it currently is, look for a little pimple of land on the west side of Montgomery Street across from the Montgomery Street entrance to the Civic Center. The proposed transfer center will not interfere with this project, and will only enhance the area.

There are only so many things we can do to correct the mistakes we made in that area during the ‘60’s. To remove the I-16 flyover would be cost-prohibitive. Taking a look at the redesign of the Civic Center is certainly an option, but that would require an incredible dollar investment.

Make no bones about it; the politics of racism is the real reason behind the opposition to this building. Black people ride the bus in this town, and white people drive their own cars. The small percentages of white people who do ride the bus do so because of their economic or mobility limitations.

Where I grew up in the metropolitan New York City area, everybody rides public transportation. There is no social stigma attached to riding the bus or train systems. They are all in it together; it is merely a matter of commuting and survival.

The term “City Bus” in this town rolls off a white person’s tongue like something they just stepped in. For what is, the primary source of transportation for a large percentage of African American Savannahians is only a last resort for the local Caucasians.

Deny it all you want, and hide behind all your noble causes, but you’re not fooling a soul; this is a black and white issue.

The transfer center has become a political pawn in the gentrification of downtown Savannah.

Gentrification, for those who don’t know, is merely a 50-cent word for pushing the poor elsewhere.

Get over it, Savannah. These same blacks that ride the bus are also the ones who pay taxes to maintain the roads that you drive on. African Americans represent better than 90 percent of CAT’S ridership and 58 percent of this town.

If restoration of our city is to be successful, we must learn to include -- not exclude -- people of all races. This project is needed, it’s paid for, and it will be an asset to downtown Savannah.

The politics of racism and intolerance in this town stink worse than its paper mills. w

Tom Parrish’s opinions here are purely his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chatham Area Transit.

E-mail Tom at

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