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Perceptions Becomes Reality
11/22/2016 3:19:21 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

I’m usually not phased by perceptions. I’ve been doing this reporter thing so long and got such good training and experience in the profession, I learned a long time ago perceptions are based on what we know and understand – don’t make it reality. But for most people, perception is their reality and that makes it true.

So I’ve been taking Donald Trump with a grain of salt. Thought about voting for the guy! I tried to take an objective look at the guy and his politics.

I don’t watch a lot of entertainment television, so I had no idea what his TV personality was about. And again, my experience told me the image people project often is done to create a perception. I learned at Mary Ford Elementary to play roles. Watching Trump campaign on the world stage I figured he was role-playing. I had no real clue about who the guy is. I knew I didn’t agree with most of the stuff he said.

When it came to his business, I had no greater knowledge of the man. I never followed Donald Trump particularly. I knew he is wealthy. Didn’t know until recently he isn’t a self-made rich man. I’ve got a lot of respect for people who make themselves great as opposed to those who inherit stuff. Doesn’t mean those who inherit their stuff are not great.

I think of people like Alexander the Great son of Phillip of Macedon, Kublai Khan grandson of Genghis Khan and Herbert U. Fielding son of Julius Fielding. I try to look at folks and gauge them on their own merits.

I know that people bring to the table the sum of their experiences and the stuff they know. That shapes their perceptions. Some of the crazy stuff Donald Trump says makes me think he has some pretty warped perceptions. Some of the stuff sounds downright stupid! But I figure a guy who gets to where Trump is in life, can’t be all that stupid.

I’m reminded of my idol former S.C. State Senator Robert Ford. The brother often is criticized about his use of the language. Ford may not be articulate, but let no one be fooled to think the brother is dumb. You don’t get to be a state senator being dumb. I know some really brilliant people who are inarticulate and some really stupid people who are quite articulate. As the saying goes, if you can’t dazzle ‘em with brilliance, baffle ‘em with bullcrap.

So I was looking at the presidential election and trying to distinguish the brilliance from the bullcrap. All I saw was bullcrap. I hesitated at least a full minute before tapping the screen to make my selection among the candidates for president. What bothers me most about that is my choice couldn’t more easily be made.

I think I made the right choice because what I perceive coming from the ultimate winner of that election scares me.

I think racism is stupid. It’s detrimental and counterproductive to progress in the larger sense. I think it’s a practice conducted by stupid people who just don’t get it. I never could understand why some people in business during Jim Crow favored racism over sound business practices. I guess the ignorance that contributes to selfishness, stupidity and lack of vision just can’t be understated. Unfortunately that’s not just a race thing.

But the trouble I am having with Trump’s decisions since his election go beyond just dealing with his perceptions. I hear people say blacks can’t be racist because in order to be racist you must have some ability/mechanism to impact others.

I never gave much credit to that trend of thought. But watching Trump make selections for members of his cabinet, I’m gaining more appreciation for it.

I don’t like making judgment calls about people I don’t know. I feel like without personal knowledge or experience, I can’t trust someone else’s perception of others. But the world is too big, too spread out – you have to trust the perceptions of others, especially those whom you trust and respect.

I don’t know Michael Bannon, Michael Flynn or Jeff Sessions – the men Trump has tagged to be his national security advisor, chief counsel and attorney general, respectively. But people I respect and trust say all three are men who demonstrate their racism through their actions politically and professionally.

I, at first, wasn’t so bothered by the appointments of Bannon and Flynn then the other day Trump picked Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as his attorney general.

That got my attention. The guy’s track record on civil rights and race relations paints him as one of the most fearsome racists since John C. Calhoun and ‘Pitchfork’ Ben Tillman.

As attorney general, Sessions will have the ability and mechanism to impact people. It’s been my experience that the attorney general’s office can determine whether other racists follow the law. I saw how that played out with Charleston County School District years ago.

I saw how that played out in Charleston County School District years ago. Charleston County schools faced a lawsuit from several individuals and others who hoped to get schools desegregated. There’s always been some controversy over whether the effort should have been for integration rather than desegregation, but that’s another story.

Well as we all know none of it worked because Charleston County schools today almost are as segregated as they were back then. Many believe that’s because the attorney general’s office over the past 30 years hasn’t pushed to uphold the law.

The perception I’m getting of Trump’s administration based on his first three appointments is one of difficult times ahead for progress in civil rights and race relations going forward. Last week Charleston police fined a guy for conducting a protest downtown. It’s begun and Trump hasn’t even taken office yet.

For years I’ve had the perception that there are forces working to return America to subjugating black people and other minorities. That perception fast is becoming reality.


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