Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Tuskegee Wal-Mart

I think it started when well-intentioned leaders decided to boycott downtown, white-owned businesses that would not employ blacks. Several businesses put up plywood screens so black shoppers wouldn't be seen sneaking in to shop. The boycott was successful. Several white businesses did employ blacks. Several others chose to go out of business instead of yielding to pressure. The boycott had other unforeseen effects. It trained Tuskegeeans to shop outside of Tuskegee.

Payday became something to look forward to, for reasons other than getting paid. You saw Tuskegeeans at the Village Mall, the movie theaters and East Alabama Medical Center. A truce was declared between Tuskegeeans, as we greeted each other in Auburn and Montgomery and told each other where the best seafood could be found, what was playing at the movies and who else from Tuskegee we had seen spending money. We parted with new information about what was happening in Montgomery and Auburn.

What was happening in Tuskegee? The same businesses that employed blacks were going out of business. The same people that would hold a check until payday were dying in Tuskegee. Black Businesses were suffering too. Unless you had a business that dealt with personal services , or were a professional in the right profession , you were in pain.

In an attempt to keep the Tuskegee dollar in Tuskegee, a new shopping plaza was built complete with a Wal-Mart. The only problem was every established, home-town business had deadly competition in Ford's Crossing. NOBODY could compete with Wal-Mart. As the last of the home-town businesses folded up, Wal-Mart closed their doors and left.

Now Auburn has created an entire industry on the west side of town, very convenient to the Tuskegee shopper. While driving thru the parking lot in front of the Super Wal-Mart, I started counting the 46 tags....and stopped because there were too many. This is the Tuskegee Wal-Mart. Tuskegeeans work there too. I'm sure Auburn has imposed an occupation tax. I would, if I were an Auburn city official. Auburn has developed an industry, a tax machine to accomodate the Tuskegee shopper and grab the Tuskegee dollar. It is a thing of beauty. Tuskegeeans drive 25 minutes up Interstate 85, drop off their money and go back to Tuskegee. And they don't even have to come into the city of Auburn at all.