1. Archive

We really mean well, we just act so stupid

Tampa is a city that can't stand to lose.

If we can get a couple of Super Bowls, the thinking goes, we should be able to get anything.

Like the Olympics.

Oh, please.

The jocks remain in charge. They imagine themselves irresistible to anybody who isn't just like them, including those black people from Florida A&M University who were shopping for a place to put a law school.

Thinking like jocks, Tampa's big minds even trotted out Tony Dungy to woo them, as if they thought his being black would be enough to knock those FAMU people off their feet.

Tony Dungy is a football coach. Except when it comes to the fine print of the player contracts, football has no more to do with the law than with toxic waste.

Which brings us to the site the mayor offered FAMU: the old police station, which the university last week rejected in favor of Orlando.


Florida's video arcade, as Bill McBride, managing partner of the Holland & Knight law firm and a guy who expects you to move when he throws his weight in your direction, said.

Tampa's police station was far superior, don't you know.

But if it was an insult for white cops to work there because the building is riddled with asbestos, bugs, bad air and only Truly Nolen knows what else, then how could it not be an insult to black law students?

This did not pass the notice of the FAMU people, so the city woke up and said, duh, okay, you can tear down the building.

The damage had already been done.

Dick Greco had made that old police station a campaign issue, and now the police department has new quarters in a rehabbed bank building smack in the middle of downtown.

That happened with amazing speed.

Could Greco and friends have possibly thought FAMU officials would have missed that, too?

The old police station also is not in downtown. It is in a no man's land between the wasted industrial strip north of downtown and Tampa Heights, a poor neighborhood where black residents will eventually be driven out by gentrification.

The saddest part of all this is that there's hardly a doubt that Tampa's best, brightest and most boosterish meant well. They meant maximum well. But you can't offer second best to people for whom second best is a bitter legacy and expect them to miss what you're up to.

Which suggests that we in this fair community still don't get this race stuff.

We are not helped, though, by black legislators such as St. Petersburg Republican Rudy Bradley waving his fist and saying that if the law school doesn't go to Tampa, he won't work to fund it.

Surely Bradley wants to repair the ugly act of 30 years ago, when FAMU's law school was shut down by the Legislature just as the black crusade for civil rights picked up steam.

Or perhaps he is more interested in seeing Rudy Bradley's name in the paper.

Progress comes in unexpected forms.

Tampa failed, but at least it tried.

The Republicans in Tallahassee restored to FAMU the law school that was once so cruelly taken away, and that Democrats for years failed to restore.

And a black politician earned himself a perverse equality by being as shortsighted and self-interested as a white one.

We must be getting somewhere.