This is my 235 word, non-fiction response to Zach's commendable work with Memphis Fast Fiction.
“The city isn't falling into ruin. The city has always been in the process of tearing itself down and building itself back up.”
Memphis is a confluence of forces—class, race, ideology, and the weight of history—simultaneously tearing down and rebuilding the city. It isn’t a community, it’s a collection of individuals. It’s a hard town, a free market town, a hustling town where those who have say, “F you, I got mine,” and those who don’t have say, “F you, I’ll get mine.”
Slave traders and cotton barons enriched themselves off the misery of others, freed-people left lives of slavery to hustle their way to anew life, former dirt farmers crawled up that 61 Highway to make it as musicians, entrepreneurs capitalized on it’s location and seemingly inexhaustible supply of cheap labor. They struggled in a war of all against all, giving as little as possible and taking as much as they could.
Desegregation demolished the existing order—whites lost political power and abandoned the institutions they could no longer control. Most fled the city. Blacks took over city government and schools, but found them gutted. Whites resent what they lost and blacks resent the future that was stillborn. “Nothing good is ever easy,” and it’s our task to overcome class, race, ideology, and the weight of history to build a community in a place that has been without one for 200 years.
Ohh silly Smart City, this is Hicksville, USA and it's time we embrace it instead of trying to be an impoverished version of Portland. One thing Memphis has going for it is schlock and people love schlock; Graceland is the palace of schlock. With the Bass Pro Super Store Attraction MegaMall Pyramid we are on our way to becoming the world capital of kitsch! Now that is something to be proud of.
By Toby Sells
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