"People throughout the United States like to celebrate diversity and talk about it a lot, but people tend to use the word "diversity" to deflect rather than engage, Colby said. A better word than diversity and integration is interdependence, he said.
"My family and the Oxmoor families, Vestavia and Birmingham, white America and black America -- we're all in this together, whether we choose to reckon with that fact or not," he said. "And yet, sadly, time and again we choose not to reckon with it."
The white flight that led to the formation of suburbs across America has created an unworkable model for society, Colby said.
"Birmingham, Atlanta, Detroit, Boston, Houston - go look at any of these cities and you will see a jigsaw puzzle of gerrymandered municipalities and school districts, all built to divide us from each other," he said. "These are the new color lines."
Whites fled the troubled inner cities such as Birmingham to create suburbs such as Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood and Hoover. And tragically, black political machines fed off the departure of the white people to gain power and control, even though the departure of white people also meant the departure of much-needed resources, Colby said.
"The chocolate city seemed the fulfillment of that dream, but sadly it was a mirage," Colby said. "Lacking the money and human capital that had fled to the suburbs, our urban centers hollowed out."
But the dream of wonderful tiny kingdoms in the suburbs also was a mirage, he said. It only works for the extremely wealthy cities such as Mountain Brook, he said.
Middle-class suburbs such as Vestavia Hills and Hoover have had to sprawl out, gobbling up new territory in search of revenue to take care of needs, Colby said. White families fled the inner city, and eventually middle-class black families followed, he said.
Building and maintaining the infrastructure to keep up with the sprawl and the quality school systems that suburbanites are seeking takes wealth that even middle-class families don't have, Colby said. Bedroom communities find themselves continually having to sprawl in search of new revenue, he said.
As low-income families migrate to the suburbs as well, the problem grows more acute because they have fewer resources to sustain an unsustainable model, Colby said."Too many towns, too many governments and not enough revenue," he said."